NEW YORK—In a startling move that shall surely have both analysts and critics remarking for years to come, enterprise software giant Oracle Corporation (NYSE: ORCL) has, in one masterstroke, staked its claim in two brand new markets with presentation of its film Cloud Odyssey: A Hero’s Quest.
With this move, the already widely competitive organization steps stolidly toe-to-toe with established players in both industries:
- Pixar and Dreamworks in the field of computer animated films,
- and noted playwright Greg Allen and innumerable professional and college theater companies in the growth market of neo-futurist, absurdist performance art.
Immediate reactions to the move varied from calling it “sublime” to “baffling” to “a serious waste of time and a huge [expletive deleted] joke.”
Today, June 11, 2014, at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Oracle asked audiences at the 14th International Cloud Expo to embrace not only the company’s private cloud offerings and agile methodologies, but indeed the transcendent connaissance of duality in the face of an uncertain future.
With sweeping resolve, Sandra Cheevers, Principal Product Director of Cloud Product Marketing, presented a vision of a utopian future replete with: presumed global unity, conspicuously middle-east-reared but (sur)nominally indian-heritaged protagonist-engineers, energy-beam based asteroid mining technology, and 378,432,000 times faster than light travel.
But she enabled, simultaneously, a more dystopian vision: a world in which movies are more than tripled in run time by being broken, between acts, to not only explicitly recount all of the action play by play, but also to explain—at great length, with infographics—the “subtleties” of the purchase-inspiring symbolism. That this was ostensibly an audience of cloud experts did not dissuade her from carefully spelling out in multiple ways each of the benefits that might be realized from an Oracle cloud solution.
Surely gone are the days of popular fears over subliminal advertising; Oracle has taken a bold leap forward into the hyperliminal.
She took us not only to a future in which space-corps engineers remark extemporaneously upon the importance of making their spaceships “agile”, but also to a present in which software engineers and sysadmins respected to make vendor purchasing decisions are assumed in need of reminding, mere seconds after viewing, that the character with the orange skin, inexplicably reverberating voice, and horned face is indeed “the alien” in the narrative.
Audiences were asked—explicitly, out loud—to contemplate the irony of an android not trusting humans with technology. Left subtextual was the question of trusting ostensibly forward-thinking, if sometimes anti-competitive, database companies with last year’s Mass Effect animation engine and a mixed back-catalog of science fiction terminology and tropes.
Traditional artistic ideals were challenged on many fronts: from the motivational to the typographic to the attentional. White all caps Arial Bold was indeed a bold choice for futuristic inter-chapter title cards, so too was the pre-roll announcement that, far from your average cinema experience, cell phone use here was not only allowed but encouraged—so long as you included the hashtag #CloudOdyssey.
Nor did Oracle miss opportunities to comment on current events:
what seemed initially to be merely a robust call for “devops”-y practices in granting total access to all systems resources—to even seemingly non-technical users—was rendered with deep political intrigue when (spoilers:) the mysterious, stand-offish corporate overseer turned out to instead
be a government intellegence-gathering agent. Fortunately, her still unclear motives were overshadowed by her confusing expertise in the detection of giant space debris. It is taken to be a complex meta-commentary that this narrative thread, while perhaps one of the most intriguing to this author, remained presented but unremarked.
Though technology was keenly on display, human leadership was also a mainstay: for example, when a thruster goes offline at a critical moment,
the brilliant captain tells his trusted subordinate to check it! Such gallantry.
Alas, some technical questions remained unanswered: for example, why despite the powerful analytical capabilities presumably provided by the ship’s Oracle-branded mainframes, the severity of solar storms was to be best judged visually. Alas, that is something I must leave to the space experts.
Still, the the core lesson of that particular challenge was not to be missed: that practicing TDD and “simulating with real-life workloads” can provide
certainty that there will not be a devastating “antimatter explosion” when overriding safety failsafes on found alien technology (regardless of what the sneaky, mistrustful, alien (hostage?) might caution).
Overall, much was learned from the heros’ epic journey to “the cloud planet”. But here on earth other concerns remain for deeper reflection:
- Why was this film considered so important to conference organizers so as to have no other parallel sessions in this time slot?
- Despite its broad cultural appeal, is the monomyth-ic “Hero’s Journey” really an appropriate metaphor for a community that is actively dissuading hero-like thinking?
- How does this film reflect on the legacy of Oracle co-founder CEO Larry Ellison’s long friendship with late Pixar co-founder and ex-CEO Steve Jobs?
To truly contemplate these things properly, I suspect you must experience the film’s presentation for yourself.
Cloud Odyssey is available in exclusive limited engagements nation-wide.
Donald Guy is an independent writer and DevOps hobbyist based in Brooklyn, NY. He is confused by really, really aggressive and over-invested marketing techniques. He is not affiliated with Oracle Corporation.