Oracle's Hurd, AT&T's Donovan on their massive cloud migration deal

In this Q&A, the CEOs of AT&T Communications and Oracle talk about collaborating on AT&T's digital transformation by migrating thousands of databases to the cloud

James Niccolai/IDGNS

If worries about digital transformation projects keep you up at night, imagine how it would feel to be responsible for moving thousands of internal databases to the cloud for a company with more than $160 billion in annual sales and 260,000 employees. That's the job that AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan is undertaking, and he's working with Oracle CEO Mark Hurd to do it. 

When the companies announced in May that they were working together, Hurd called the agreement "historic." While hyperbole is part of everyday life in tech, lessons learned from the massive project are bound to reverberate across enterprises in a variety of fields, as Hurd noted in the following discussion with Donovan and IDG News Service Editor in Chief Marc Ferranti.

AT&T, the biggest telecom company in the world by revenue, had already plunged into  virtualizing and software-controlling its wide area network. The goal is to virtualize 75 percent of its core network functions by 2020, hitting 55 percent by the end of this year. The move to bring its databases to the cloud, meanwhile, will allow it to knock down information silos, achieve greater operational efficiency and innovate new products and services. 

Oracle, meanwhile, has been knocked for being late to the cloud, allowing IaaS (infrastructure as a service) leaders like Amazon, Google and Microsoft to scoop up customers. But over the past year it introduced its Generation2 IaaS offering, forged ahead on regular updates to its SaaS (software as a service) line, and polished up its Cloud at Customer offering, which lets enterprises put data and applications behind their firewalls while taking advantage of cloud pricing models and technology. This was important for AT&T, which must be mindful of regulatory requirements for customer data.

In the following discussion, edited for publication, Hurd and Donovan talk about working together on what they (half-jokingly?) refer to as the lunatic fringe of digital transformation.

IDG: “Collaboration” is a term sometimes used for basically straightforward business deals: a customer pays a vendor for products and services. You’ve called this a collaboration — in what sense is the Oracle-AT&T deal a true collaboration?

John Donovan: In this case we didn’t buy what Mark was selling off the shelf. We didn’t look at where Oracle was. We looked at what we were trying to accomplish as a company, how vast the job at hand was, and then we looked at the evolution and the architecture of what Oracle was doing in their cloud strategy in order to find a territory where we could buy and they had to build. Oracle is going to address our specific need: How do you tear down a massive database and regionally distribute it so that you can be really fast in how you’re managing your IT application changes that rest on top of this data?

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