ICON Series: A Conversation with Capgemini’s Chris Hollies and Oracle’s David Cottee

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, I am joined by Chris Hollies, CTO Cloud Practice for Capgemini UK and David Cottee, Senior Director Solution Engineering at Oracle.

In our conversation, we covered the following:

  • Sovereign cloud offerings in the UK and EU regions
  • An overview of recent MySQL heatwave announcements
  • How sustainability is becoming a large part of business for Capgemini’s customers
  • A deep dive into the Capgemini Oracle partnership

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Daniel Newman: Chris and David, welcome to the show. How are you both doing today?

David Cottee: Yeah, pretty good.

Chris Hollies: Yeah, doing good. Thank you.

Daniel Newman: All right, so before we jump in, of course, your lower third will show your name and title. But love to get a quick introduction of both of you and your roles respectively at Capgemini and Oracle. So Chris, why don’t we start off with you?

Chris Hollies: Yeah, Chris Hollies, I’m the CTO for Capgemini’s Oracle business and been around Oracle technology 23 years now in technical roles.

Daniel Newman: David?

David Cottee: Yeah, hi. So I’m David Cottee. I’m head of cloud engineering for West Europe. So I work in the technology sector for Oracle. I’ve been at Oracle for about 25 years, man and boy. And head up a team of solution engineers that look after our customer’s requirements across our technology cloud portfolio.

Daniel Newman: So I think it’s fair to call you both wily veterans. Two decades plus at the same company generally is indicative of two things. You love what you do and you love the company you do it for. So welcome both of you to the show, really excited to have you here. I want to start off, Chris, talking to you a little bit about sort of what’s going on with the cloud and specifically with sovereign clouds. You focus on the UK and the EU regions and obviously now both have respectively slightly different requirements. But talk a little bit about what’s going on with sovereign offerings in both of those regions.

Chris Hollies: Yeah, it’s a really interesting space. We’ve worked in UK government cloud for several years now. Done a number of migrations to UK government cloud and it’s really interesting that Oracle tackled head on that challenge of having a sovereign cloud for UK government. Putting the UK SC operating model around it, operating it now under English law. And then more recently announcing the release of sovereign regions for Europe and Spain and Germany initially. That’s a really important step. Operating those clouds with locally cleared and a localized operating model of cleared personnel is really important for government.

We see a great demand for it in Europe and it’s a place where Oracle is ahead of the other hyperscalers. We have seen some moves from some others. We’ve seen Google providing Anthos in certain locations, but nowhere near as comprehensive an offer as Oracle. And it really goes with that sort of wall-to-wall aspiration of being able to provide everything everywhere. That direct meeting of EU sovereign cloud for data jurisdiction, for localization. I think is a really significant differentiator. We do see demand for it in Europe. It’s something that’s holding back a lot of organizations from making that migration.

Daniel Newman: The complexities of meeting compliance in different parts of the world is creating headaches and hassles for IT leaders in every region, and of course for enterprises. It’s not just about IT and it’s also all the way up to the board level, about managing that personal data privacy, meeting those requirements, sovereignty, governance and of course, still having that redundancy that’s required. I remember when Oracle, you announced cloud at customer, David, and when I saw that, I immediately said, “There’s such a great application for that.” Because you’ve got to maintain the control plane that’s required that people are building out the cloud on. But at the same time, being able to drop it into a physical region and make it extensible, instantaneously, was going to help companies to meet some of what Chris just talked about.

So talk a little bit about, through the Oracle lens, David. I mean, we talked just about sovereign cloud, maybe touch on that, but also Oracle’s been really showing some incredible strength in its database with the MySQL Heatwave announcements. I remember looking at some of the testing, we’ve actually written a few white papers of Futurum Research about this. Even looking at the performance of MySQL Heatwave against what Amazon and AWS is doing and some of the others, and the performance has been outstanding. So talk a little bit about how you’re approaching modernization and of course, if you wanted to touch at all on the sovereign cloud conversation as well.

David Cottee: Yeah, of course. So with the sovereign cloud and with the UK government cloud, it was really important for us, considering that one of the key design principles of Oracle Cloud was to make anything available anywhere. So different customers, different requirements, and whether that be, therefore, we deploy cloud at customer or we deploy a dedicated region to our customer. Or we provide sovereign realm capabilities in the UK with security cleared UK only personnel, or with customers that have very stringent regulatory requirements into the EU realm. This was really key for us because it meets with the values that underpin what Oracle Cloud is about, making it available to anybody that needs it. So moving on to your point about MySQL. It’s interesting when we talk about database sharing across the globe, we often just look at the Oracle piece of that, and the flagship Oracle database that’s been number one for so many years, for decades in fact.

But actually, in that number two spot is always MySQL and actually together they make up the entire database market share. Now, MySQL, it’s so prolific across the globe people using so many different reasons. But actually, with recent announcements around Heatwave, what we’re saying is that actually you don’t need to perform extensive ETLs into secondary data warehouses or data marks to have reporting capabilities. We’re saying actually deploy Heatwave to have a single repository of data for your OLTP transactions. But also to gain…have immediate access to machine learning algorithms inside the same database and also to be able to run your analytics. So we’re saying this kind of concept of converged database, have all your data in one place, not be spreading it around to do different types of workloads in different places, but actually a single capability. And that’s what Heatwave’s all about. It’s about providing that real instant access to meaningful and insightful data.

Daniel Newman: And it also has been proven, David, to be quite performant and at least in our early analysis and if we’ve looked at all the testing. So it’s not only offering that simplicity but it’s doing it at a very high level of performance, which is important to companies, as obviously we see data continue to proliferate at such a great rate. Touch a little bit, David, on sustainability, though. The whole multi-model database and Heatwave play. Kind of how is Oracle talking about this in relation to sustainability because that’s another huge initiative. So we already hit sovereign cloud, which is big in Europe. The second thing is obviously Europe’s policy and drive towards sustainability is happening faster than any other part of the world right now. How is this enabling that, knowing that, what, is the data centers now are consuming what about 1% of the world’s power?

David Cottee: Yeah. Well, I mean, a lot of the customers we talk to in terms of their move to cloud, whether it be Oracle or anywhere else, it’s about them exiting their own data centers and one of the key drivers for that is around sustainability. Customers of ours do not want to be spending millions of dollars or pounds on running their own data centers and actually we can do it much more efficiently. There’s a big connection between Oracle’s price performance, you touched on MySQL being a lot more performant. It’s actually a lot cheaper as well. What you get from Oracle Cloud per megawatt and on what we fit into our data center space is a lot more efficient than most other hyperscalers or indeed other data centers can do.

In terms of why MySQL particularly helps meet sustainability goals is really around what I mentioned before about having a single database. So just consuming power and consuming data center space for a single database that can it all. And actually, this is true of the Oracle database as much as it is of the MySQL, not having different flavors of database for OLTP transactions, a different one for data warehousing, a different one for machine learning, a different one, and so on and so on. Actually all inside a single instance, you can do everything. So you’re reducing your footprint, you’re reducing your carbon consumption and actually it helps to tick all those boxes just by consuming everybody’s favorite database it would seem, according to recent database share statistics.

Daniel Newman: And of course, Oracle’s also made some announcements related to its utilization of renewable energy through OCI, which is probably worth noting in terms of helping companies reach their sustainability goals. Chris, spending some years with Capgemini, I’ve certainly noticed that sustainability’s almost become an entrenched part of the narrative of every part of your business. This obviously plays a really big part into your sort of how you go to market leading the Oracle practice across Europe for the company. How much are you seeing your customers asking about this? Is this really factoring into sort of the way you’re consulting?

Chris Hollies: It absolutely does, yeah. It is really central to a lot of the conversations we have with customers now and it’s something that we proactively put front and center of those conversations. I was at a VP executive event recently where we did a climate thrust, a three-hour climate workshop to really get under the covers of sustainability. There is some really interesting aspects to what Capgemini does because of the breadth of our business, from business consulting, to engineering, to IT services and transformation. That it’s not just the things that Dave called out about having a single database that can deliver multiple workloads, but it’s about the ways of working that Oracle’s technology drives. So their ability to host the most advanced NVIDIA GPUs for example, is bringing the metaverse and the capabilities of the metaverse more and more into the hands of end users.

So users are able to collaborate globally to work on things in a shared metaverse experience. Our engineering colleagues are really at the forefront of some of that work and partners such as NVIDIA have solutions working with Oracle and able to deliver them in Oracle’s cloud with those NVIDIA GPUs and the recent announcements that we saw, driving the metaverse further and further, its penetration into the hands of engineers and end users. We have a customer at the moment with whom we’re working to deliver a real-time collaborative experience. So meetings will actually be held in the metaverse for that customer. That’s a sustainability solution in the end organization that’s consuming the cloud, not just in the cloud itself. So it is absolutely front and center. It improves everybody’s lives, not just from the sustainability perspective, but the whole work-life balance perspective and the ability to deliver solutions so much faster.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. We spend a lot of time studying that ourselves at Futurum, and we actually worked with Honeywell, one of the world’s largest industrial companies, to do with the Environmental Sustainability Index. And so we’ve been tracking quarter on quarter the sentiment of the market about sustainability and what we’re finding is the desire to continue on progress is really high right now. Having said that, the sort of tougher macro is making companies be a little bit more thoughtful about how they can measure the return. So they’re looking at both what David talked about specifically, to how are we truly being able to show more carbon-neutral activities with the number of instances that we’re deploying to do a single task.

At the same time, they’re also looking for those synergies, which you mentioned, but it is, we are moving towards what I would call sort of a measurable sustainability era where it’s not just about the “marck-itecture” of saying, “Hey, we’re going to be more sustainable.” It’s really about how can we prove it? It’s easy for a company to say, “Well, by 2050 we’re going to do this.” Well, by 2050 everyone that’s reading this is going to be retired. So we got to kind of think about how are we doing things that are now measurable and meaningful and material. And I think some of those things you mentioned are important. Now, let’s double down on Capgemini a little bit here. Talk a little bit about through this partnership with Oracle, sort of how, Chris, you’re really focusing on solving the big problems, the big rocks that customers are trying to move forward.

Chris Hollies: There are certain markets in which I think Oracle and Capgemini have incredible differentiators on where we have a lot of conversations. So aerospace and defense manufacturing, engineering are big areas, financial services are big areas as well. We touched on the sustainability challenge, but the whole continual need to reinvent the business as well to stay ahead of what the competition is doing is really critical for businesses today.

Our environment brand works with CXOs to not just help them understand how to evolve their current business, but to understand those market threats, to stay one step ahead of them, to help them to continually reinvent the business. Oracle’s technology set in Oracle Cloud now is so broad, so accessible, so easy to integrate that it really does reduce those deployment cycles and reduce the risk of those deployment cycles to allow businesses to move faster. So we have a huge amount of experience now taking businesses from that slow state of IT and business separation to the future of a DevOps model and having business and IT much more closely aligned, taking them to what we call a high frequency organization that can deliver innovation very quickly in short cycles with low risk.

Daniel Newman: So I’m interested, David, from your lens, because you obviously cut across all the GSIs, you cut across a lot of ISVs and different partnerships that are all building. Can you share a little bit, I know you’re going to have to be a little diplomatic because you do work with all these people, but where do you see the strength and the synergies in terms of collaborating with an organization like Capgemini to deliver the most innovation and also just the correct solutions for Oracle customers?

David Cottee: Yeah, I think, well I think Chris has touched on it there in terms of breaking down into a consumable project of moving to cloud. A lot of companies have found it very difficult to move to cloud because they have certainly mission-critical legacy systems, shall we call them. And this is where a combination of Capgemini and Oracle cloud is a winner because, first of all, the way that Oracle’s designed its cloud, it can cope with these kind of workloads. We talk about generation two of the cloud. And when we talk about gen two, we’re not just talking about Oracle second generation, but the second generation of cloud.

Because the way that we’ve architected and designed Oracle Cloud means that we can cope with things like clustered systems that are otherwise having to be refactored if organizations are moving in or trying to move them, in fact, to other hyperscalers. So working through a methodology like Capgemini have to move enterprise mission-critical systems with a combination of Oracle’s cloud capabilities to bring those systems over is what many of our customers are finding, I suppose a breath of fresh air. Rather than having to say, “Actually, all of these systems, I think I’m going to have to leave on premise.” Or refactor them and spend a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of resources to cloudify them. Well, that’s not the case with Capgemini and Oracle. We can cope with those from the get-go. So this is one of the areas where we are really capitalizing and working with Capgemini to identify these kind of customers.

Daniel Newman: So Chris, what I’d love to wrap up is talking a little bit about strategic approach, something that you call Flexagon. And I’m kind of curious across the utilization of Flexagon and how you sort of enable acceleration for your customers, not just across infrastructure, which we’ve talked a lot about the infrastructure layer, but we also talked about database, but also there really are these three major layers, right? With IS, PaaS, and SaaS. So companies need to operationalize that, they need to streamline it, they need to innovate on it. Talk about how you’re approaching that.

Chris Hollies: Yeah. Flexagon is a provider of a DevOps value tool chain called FlexDeploy that we’ve used successfully in a number of projects. Most recently at Heathrow Airport where we did the back office transformation of Heathrow Airport, right through the pandemic as well, the most challenging time for that industry in history. And it was the same time that a back office transformation was being done. There was the drive for people to work remotely, to still be able to collaborate successfully, to move quickly to reduce risk. And the Flexagon, FlexDeploy product was at the heart of what we did. It has plugins for lots and lots of different technology, but it has lots of plugins for Oracle as well. So we were able to use the plugins for Oracle Cloud, for Oracle Apex for SOA Suite database, but also for the Oracle SaaS products as well as the PaaS and infrastructure layers.

And of course it has plugins for many other hyperscalers and many other tier one ERP providers as well. SAP, Salesforce integration, things like Boomi and Mule and all the others, lots and lots of plugins. But by putting that at the heart of the solution as a piece of technology, by bringing all the collateral that Capgemini has built in the last few years to our cloud deployments, we have a curated library of best practice tools, accelerators, code artifacts, et cetera. Bringing those two together was able to really put acceleration at the center of that project across all the pillars across infra platform and software-as-a-service. So along with reinventing the operating model for the organization, we were also able to deliver technology acceleration right at the heart of that process.

Daniel Newman: So I want to just double click on that. I wasn’t as familiar with Flexagon. So Flexagon is a DevOps tool, is basically what you’re saying in that you guys at Cap have sort of built into the framework of your approach to basically enable more rapid integrations across the IS PaaS and SaaS layers. And so you’ve sort of combined it, created a best practice. And how much do you think after watching companies slog through these types of implementations, how much time do you feel like you’re able to save? Or have you noted any really meaningful material ROI?

Chris Hollies: We have. I don’t have a measurable ROI that I can give you.

Daniel Newman: Yeah.

Chris Hollies: But I think it’s important because it’s a tool that is not just there for the implementation. So if I take the Heathrow example again, what we’ve left is that we’ve left Heathrow as an organization that is more self-sufficient than they ever anticipated being. If I look at the integration layer, for example, where we used Oracle Integration cloud and we drive changes to that and deliveries through that from the FlexDeploy product.

Because we took a modular and parameterized approach to the way that we build the integrations with integration cloud, the customer now has an integration set that they can add to, that they can change, they can retire and lifecycle and deliver new integrations in a very self-sufficient way. They have it in their own hands now to take forward the integration solution at the heart of their enterprise. And it’s a multi-cloud integration solution as well. So handles integrations across both Oracle Cloud and Microsoft Azure and can integrate across many, many other points as well. But it certainly has put acceleration not just in the delivery phase of the project, but it’s left that acceleration as an enduring legacy for the operation and evolution of that evergreen platform.

Daniel Newman: So let’s kind of tie this together and wrap this up. I’d like to just do a quick lightning round with both of you. Talk about one or two of the biggest challenges that you see for enterprises in the current macro with the current challenges that we started with sovereign cloud and others. What are the one or two things you’re really focusing on? And David, I’ll start with you to help customers get through these next year of tougher economic conditions, but also the need for digital transformation being more important than ever.

David Cottee: Sure. So I think one of the things that we haven’t touched on so far, but it’s just really, really key in terms of customer success right now is multi-cloud, right? And the ability for customers to choose the right cloud for the right workload. From our point of view in OCI, we’ve designed OCI to be open and to partner with the likes of Azure. You can create a Oracle database actually from inside the Azure console, we can connect with Azure. So we can run very low latency connections between perhaps a Microsoft application and an Oracle database. So these kind of partnerships are really, really key because our customers, even those that perhaps started with a single cloud strategy – I’m going to put all my eggs in one basket so to speak – I think have come to the realization that actually the reality is I need to mitigate risk and I need to adopt best of breed technologies.

And certainly from an OCI point of view, we would say certainly Oracle workloads are best in OCI, because we’ve optimized it in that respect. Not that we won’t run other workloads, we certainly do. And actually many of our customers are experiencing performance gains and cost savings from running non-Oracle workloads in our cloud. But the point is it’s about choice, it’s about openness, it’s about having that ability to stretch across different clouds and have that all inside a console and federated user identities, for example, rather than having different directories in different clouds. This is really, really key. And I think a lot of our customers are starting to see the benefit of that and how we’ve engineered our cloud and how some of our vendor partners are doing the same so that they can actually stretch across these different environments. So it plays into that same thing where I started, which is about cloud available to everybody in different flavors in different places and not being sort of proprietary kind of lock in environments where once you’re in, you can never get out again.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think we could summate that really well too, with A, the public cloud is not going to be the solution for every eight workload. So we talked about cloud and customer, we also talked about just hybrid is the kind of winning architecture of the day. And hybrid multi is really where everything is going because it’s going to be multiple public clouds and multiple private clouds or on-prem that really define how enterprises build these operating models. So that definitely matches what our research is saying too. Chris, any final words on this?

Chris Hollies: I guess my final words would just be, I think this is a really exciting time. Multi-cloud is the future. We touched on that at the end. We’ve already seen one of our customers take up Oracle database service for Azure. Actually a customer who was going to take their standard edition databases to Azure and now instead going to transform to Enterprise Edition and they’re going to use ODSA, they’re going to get a better overall solution at a better price point. And that really does for me, demonstrate the value of the right multi-cloud solution for the right use case. That’s a great solution to bring to that customer. And we stand at the beginning now of a really exciting phase with the sovereign clouds coming to fruition and multi-cloud really taking hold. I just think it’s a really exciting time.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Could not agree more. Regulated clouds, the complexity of different regions. Companies need to be very careful and cautious with data and all the awareness that’s even being created by consumerized technologies like ChatGPT. Just the awareness that it’s raising to that’s going to really end up becoming instrumental in how enterprises architect systems and manage data. So David, Chris, I want to thank you so much for joining me.

Chris Hollies: Thank you.

David Cottee: Thank you.

Daniel Newman: Thanks everybody for tuning in.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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