Like many of its competitors, Oracle is placing a big bet on the future of autonomous technology. Rather than self-driving cars, though, it's developed what it's calling "the world's first 100 percent self-driving autonomous database."

Unveiled yesterday during executive chairman/CTO Larry Ellison's opening keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2017, which runs from Oct. 1-5 in San Francisco, the Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud uses machine learning to automatically tune performance and adjust compute and storage requirements without human intervention. It also automatically detects and responds to cyberattacks in real time, Ellison said.

By eliminating human labor as well as human error, the new database cloud is many times cheaper than Amazon Web Services, according to Oracle. "We guarantee you contractually to cut your Amazon bill in half," Ellison said during his keynote.

'No Pilot Error Because No Pilot'

"This is a big deal, by the way, no one else does this," Ellison said about the capabilities of the Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud. "This is the most important thing we have done in a long, long time."

Thanks to machine learning, the new database service is not simply highly automated, but fully autonomous, he added. He distinguished the technology from the autopilot systems used to handle many, though not all, of the functions of flying a plane.

"In this case, the automation does everything," Ellison said. "You get into the plane, you tell it where you want to go and it flies you there. There is no pilot error anymore because there is no pilot."

For now, the cyber defenses available through the Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud are partially automated, meaning that some human intervention will still be needed to manage threat detection and responses, according to Ellison. "Make no mistake, we are headed toward full autonomy in cyber security as well," he said.

Set to become available later this year, the Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud will enable an availability guarantee of 99.995 percent, "less than 30 minutes a year of unplanned downtime," Ellison said. It's powered by Oracle's updated Database 18c.

New Enterprise Database Platform and 'Next-Gen' Data Warehouse

Oracle has also made several other big announcements at Oracle World. For instance, today the company took the wraps off the latest version of its enterprise database platform, Oracle Exadata X7. The update delivers "significant hardware and software enhancements," including a doubling of Flash storage capacity, a 150-percent hike in Ethernet network bandwidth, a 50-percent jump in memory capacity and performance, and a 25-percent increase in disk capacity, according to Oracle. It also provides end-to-end smart software for managing the performance of applications across database servers, networking, and storage.

In addition to its new database cloud offering, Oracle also rolled out a next-generation cloud service based on that technology and the updated Exadata platform: the Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud. The warehouse cloud can be launched in a matter of seconds without manual tuning, and provides instant elasticity so customers can pay for only the database workloads they need from one moment to the next, Oracle said.

Yesterday, the year-and-a-half-old Oracle PartnerNetwork launched a new program to highlight top partner providers of Oracle software-as-a-service cloud (SaaS) implementations. The Oracle Cloud Excellence Implementer program will offer SaaS customers access to partner performance information so they can "minimize implementation risk, quickly adopt new cloud functionality, and continuously expand their Oracle Cloud footprint."

Later today, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd is scheduled to give a keynote addressing describing the company's ongoing progress and goals in working toward a "cloud foundational world." Ellison is expected to provide more details about the Oracle Autonomous Database during a talk tomorrow.