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Oracle vs. AWS: Compare cloud databases, PaaS and SaaS

Oracle and AWS gear their clouds toward different users, so it's important to know where your organization falls. See which database, PaaS and SaaS options match your requirements.

Deciding between AWS and Oracle can be a tough call, particularly when you consider that the two vendors' database, PaaS and SaaS offerings target different audiences.

At a high level, AWS has a head start with support for the developer ecosystem around its cloud-based services. Oracle, on the other hand, has a legacy of more robust and secure enterprise databases and applications, such as ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) offerings.

To go beyond high-level strategy, let's explore how these enterprise services compare.

Editor's note: Be sure to check out part one of our Oracle vs. AWS comparison.

Oracle vs. AWS: Database management services

Oracle still has a strong hold on the database market and has higher-end services, so AWS has largely targeted developers and SMBs.

Cloud-native readiness is also a differentiating factor for AWS, said Bill Saltys, senior vice president of alliances at Apps Associates, a cloud consultancy. With Amazon Aurora and Relational Database Service, AWS has had success with cloud-native, organic development platforms for MySQL- and PostgreSQL-compatible relational databases. AWS has also had success with other key offerings, such as Redshift for data warehouses, DynamoDB for key-value storage and ElastiCache for Redis.

 AWS' wider variety of database options appeals to a much broader audience, particularly SMBs, said Todd Matters, chief architect and co-founder of RackWare, a hybrid cloud management platform. In addition to its diversity, AWS also has better scaling options at the lower end, he added.

Oracle provides similar types of data management capabilities. Users can employ Oracle IaaS to provision database shapes on bare-metal servers or higher-end Exadata servers. Oracle also offers more PaaS-like database services as part of its Autonomous Data Warehouse and Autonomous Transaction Processing services. One of the advantages of the Autonomous offerings is their support for a range of analytics and mixed database workloads on a common platform.

In theory, this should cut down on some of the data engineering required to prep data for different kinds of AI, machine learning and analytics workloads. It should also reduce the integration required for application development. However, Oracle's Autonomous database services are relatively new compared to AWS, and developers are still sorting out the edge cases.

For Oracle-centric enterprises, Oracle Autonomous Database is an excellent option, Matters said. Although AWS gets more publicity in the developer community, CIOs still rely on Oracle. It controls 42.3% of the market for relational databases compared to 2.9% for AWS, according to the latest IDC figures. Oracle's databases are a little more high-end and better designed to support cloud migrations from an Exadata environment.

Oracle vs. AWS: PaaS ecosystems

AWS has been building out its PaaS offerings and ecosystem for far longer than Oracle and across a wider range of services, Saltys said. AWS PaaS offerings support AI and machine learning, IoT, storage, migration services, security and governance, content delivery, database and analytics. AWS has introduced scores of such PaaS offerings and continues to build out these services at a pace that is difficult to match.

Oracle, on the other hand, has focused on PaaS offerings that build upon its legacy applications and services. Oracle's PaaS strategy is to make it easier for a developer to enhance the capabilities of other Oracle services -- for instance, E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and PeopleSoft. These software packages provide an on-ramp to the public cloud for customers with mission-critical, on-prem workloads in areas such as database, analytics, data management and integration. It's also targeted at developers familiar with Java and Fusion Middleware.

Oracle vs. AWS: SaaS

Though both vendors have pushed heavily into IaaS, PaaS and cloud databases, neither has made significant investments at the highest tier of cloud computing. AWS SaaS offerings make it easier for developers to build custom applications on top of AWS infrastructure. In this model, Amazon generally defers to third parties that provide the enterprise software applications for functions like CRM or ERP. AWS does have some of its own SaaS-based productivity apps, but it does not compete for enterprise-class business applications. Instead, AWS focuses its SaaS offerings toward SMBs, Matters said.

In contrast, Oracle provides its own SaaS-based enterprise software applications in areas such as customer experience, supply chain management and ERP. However, Oracle clearly has fewer SaaS offerings than Amazon, Matters said. Oracle SaaS offerings are from companies that have already been marketing their product as coexistent with other Oracle products.

Consider cloud lock-in

Both Oracle and AWS provide a good set of tools for building applications on top of their database, PaaS and SaaS offerings. AWS might be a better bet for smaller enterprises and companies with an existing AWS footprint. Oracle's services provide an easy migration path to the cloud for companies with a larger Oracle deployment. Its Autonomous technologies should also help reduce migration overhead when it's time to move and manage these apps in the cloud.

Organizations should be mindful of the difficulties in moving to another platform when they choose a particular cloud database, PaaS or SaaS offering.

"It may not be a big consideration now, but at some point, you won't want to be locked into one cloud or the other," Matters said. "Understanding how you would migrate off of one of those services to a different environment is actually very important, and it's something that should be taken seriously when you are evaluating a particular vendor, as well as PaaS or SaaS."

This was last published in April 2019

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