Oracle promises ‘highly automated’ security in self-driving database

Larry Ellison is keen on ‘Anything we can possibly do to reduce human intervention’

OpenWorld 2017 Oracle has kicked off its annual OpenWorld conference with a pledge to automate in the company's “autonomous” database, plus plenty of snark directed at Amazon Web Services.

Jeans-toting CTO Larry Ellison kicked off Big Red’s four-day San Franciscan extravaganza with a not-so-slick presentation that had no real big surprises.

The main item on the agenda was the firm’s upcoming autonomous database, with Ellison offering up a smidge more detail than he did when teasing it during a recent announcement on cloud pricing.

Speaking during a day one keynote, Ellison emphasised that Oracle's aim is to cut out downtime by stripping out human error - which is simple if you just stop any humans from getting near the systems at all.

“If you eliminate human behaviour, you eliminate human error,” the CTO said. “My autopilot flies my plane a lot better than I do,” he added, in a bid to make sure we all know he has a jet.

The planned cyber security offering - details of which attendees were told will emerge on Tuesday - will see the database use machine learning technologies to detect when it is being attacked.

It will then automatically patch itself, rather than waiting for a human to schedule downtime.

“It’s our computer versus their computers in cyber warfare, and we have to have a lot better computers, and more automation if we’re going to defend our data,” Ellison said.

In a dig at the recent Equifax scandal, Ellison said: “The worst data thefts in history have occurred after a patch was available to prevent the theft. The patches just weren’t applied; how is that possible.”

He later said that in that situation, “someone lost their job”, before adding that it wasn’t just the CEO in the firing line: “Nobody is safe."

Although security measures are only partially automated at the moment, Ellison said that the company was “headed towards full automation".

Meanwhile, he repeated claims to the world's first “self-driving” database, which was teased on an earnings call in early September.

Describing it as “the most important thing we’ve done in a long, long time”, Ellison said it would automatically provision, patch, tune and back-up itself, with no human intervention.

Another claim Ellison made was that the database would contain a feature that permits queries to be made against data deleted a day earlier.

Again, Larry’s aim is to cut out how much humans interfere with his systems. Or, “No human labour, no human error,” as he put it.

The founder also seemed cognizant of unease about machines replacing skilled workers, so stressed that increasing automation is not intended to give people the heave-ho.

Instead, there would be an “evolution of the skills set”, with database professionals focusing on innovation, database design, analytics and security.

The 18c autonomous database for data warehousing will be available in December (despite the point of changing the database naming convention being to indicate the year in which it was released), while the online transaction processing version will be out in June.

Ellison also reiterated - multiple times - his pledge that the database would offer 99.995% availability, as well as being half the cost of Amazon - promises that he said would be written into the contract.

Offering up demos that showed Amazon’s Redshift running up to 10 times slower than Oracle’s offering, with a bill up to 15 times higher, Ellison said Big Red was “pretty comfortable” making that promise. The OpenWorld audience wasn't: quite a few left during the demo.

He also took a pot shot at Amazon’s claims of 99-per-cent-plus reliability, saying, for instance, that this excluded downtime for planned maintenance, adding compute and storage.

“You’ve got to read section 61 of your contract … it doesn’t count when you’re down for any reason,” he said.

A slide promised "no exceptions in the fine print" from Oracle - something The Reg will hold him to if or when we get to see it. ®

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