Cloud Services / Kubernetes / Tools

Oracle Lures Developers with More ‘Always-Free’ Cloud Services

25 Jun 2021 1:23pm, by

Database giant Oracle is looking to bring more developers to its Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) platform as it chases the top three cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform.

The company is offering a host of services in its Free Tier to enable developers to build basic applications on the Oracle cloud. It also offers a set of Always Free services for developers and operators to learn, kick the tires, and deploy workloads on OCI.

To help push this strategy to bring more developers into the fold, Oracle hired AWS veteran Dan Gerrity to focus on the company’s effort to woo developers over to Oracle. Gerrity is the senior vice president of Developer Services for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

As part of Gerrity’s strategy, Oracle recently added 13 new services to its Always Free options, consisting of: Ampere A1 Compute, Autonomous JSON Database, NoSQL, APEX Application Development, Logging, Service Connector Hub, Application Performance Monitoring (APM), Flexible Load Balancer, Flexible Network Load Balancer, VPN Connect V2, Oracle Security Zones, Oracle Security Advisor, and OCI Bastion.

This establishes Oracle’s set of free services and resources among the most generous in the industry, Gerrity claimed.

Oracle launched its Oracle Cloud Free Tier in September 2019, providing Always Free services such as compute, storage and autonomous database, as well as a 30-day Free Trial with $300 of free credits. The 13 new Always Free services complement the existing Always Free ones — Compute VM, Object Storage, Block Storage, Load Balancer, Autonomous Data Warehouse, and Autonomous Transaction Processing.

Gerrity has been at Oracle for about 18 months. Before that he was at AWS for about five years working in the billing system, “so I know a lot about free stuff and not free stuff and surprise bills and so forth,” he said. According to Gerrity, Developer Services is a relatively new area at OCI. “Effectively, my job is to get developers onto the platform and all the way through to production applications,” he said.

When a new user signs up for OCI they get a Free Tier account, which gives them some credits that they can use on pretty much any service. But those credits expire after 30 days.

However, the key thing about the Free Tier is all that stuff is always free, Gerrity said. “We have enough services now available in the always-free area that you can actually build real, functioning applications using things that are always free,” he said. “It’s just completely unambiguous. We’re never going to charge your credit card. It’s that simple. So, no surprise bills. The important thing about the Free Tier is that what I went through at AWS with people getting surprise bills and all that kind of thing cannot happen.”

In a tweet from early last month, Corey Quinn, chief cloud economist at the Duckbill Group, scolded AWS and praised Oracle regarding their free tier of cloud services.

Meanwhile, in a separate tweet at the end of May, Alex Chan, a software developer at the Wellcome Trust, described how a university student had inadvertently ran up an $8,000 bill on AWS and was looking for help as they could not pay that amount.

In a response, Quinn again praised Oracle for its handling of lower end users.

In another response to Chan. Scott Piper, AWS Security lead at Aurora, said AWS should install default budget controls to help beginners and lower end customers. Aurora is a self-driving vehicle technology provider that Amazon has invested heavily in.

No Surprise Bills

Joby Menon, senior director of product management for the OCI services Free Tier product line, said when developers sign up for Oracle’s free trial, they are told explicitly that they have to proactively upgrade their account to use more advanced features or use more time or resources.

“You won’t get accidental charges with Oracle,” he said. Unless a user expressly asks for an upgrade, “we don’t charge their credit card at all, period,” he said. “We control it through a software program so that there’s no accidental charge. They [developers] don’t get surprised with even a one-dollar bill.”

Gerrity added: “There’s no worry about over bursting or overcharging or hitting some limit and then getting billed for it. It’s just always free.”

While Oracle’s free tier of services will enable developers to build secure, scalable and resilient apps, they’re often used by enterprise users to create proof-of-concept systems.

“What we’ve discovered is that there are certain limitations to the always-free product,” Gerrity said. “One of those limitations is it’s hard to build an app that spans multiple fault domains, or multiple availability domains, or however you want to talk about it. If you’re a corporate developer, a developer that’s interested in building out a real application that’s going to be used by lots of people in a broad geography, you’re going to want to make it resilient. You’re going to want to make it fault-tolerant, with multiple AZs [availability zones] and multiple failovers. That’s a little bit harder to do with the Free Tier.”

However, you can do a lot of proof-of-concept development and build a lot of applications that just rely on the resilience of the underlying Oracle database.

Gerrity said his team can predict which users are just tire kickers and which ones are likely to move to become paying customers. You look at their use of load balancing services.

Flexing on Oracle’s aspiring cred in the DevOps space, Gerrity, who is on the board of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, said, “We have a Kubernetes service that we call the Oracle Kubernetes Engine, or OKE. It’s pure Kubernetes. It’s the anti-lock-in cloud. If you’re running Kubernetes on-prem, it’s literally the same Kubernetes that’s running in the Oracle Cloud. We don’t have a bunch of new APIs that you need to use or a bunch of different ways that you need to interact. You can use Kubectl and run your OKE.”

Moreover, Oracle is looking at advancing its cloud offering. “We are looking at moving up the stack,” Gerrity said. “For example, if you use our Kubernetes service, you’re still responsible for provisioning either the bare metal machines or the virtual machines that you need underneath. We’re working on enhancements where you won’t have to worry about that.”

Feature image par Robert Balog de Pixabay 

A newsletter digest of the week’s most important stories & analyses.