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What's going on with Intel and Oracle?

The two companies recently made a vague announcement about encryption for cloud computing and virtualization. What the heck are they talking about?

Oracle is famous for using its Oracle World conference to announce everything but the digital kitchen sink. Earlier this week, Oracle announced a database appliance with CEO Larry Ellison crowing, "Oracle is now in the hardware business!" As if this wasn't weird enough, Oracle also teamed up with Intel to make a vague announcement about encryption for cloud computing and virtualization.

On the Intel side, the company is highlighting its Virtual Technology (VT) platform that supports "hardware-rooted" security, something Intel calls its "Trusted Computing for Execution Platform." For Oracle, it's all about its grid computing technologies including databases, application clusters, and virtual machines.

So in essence, this announcement is about Intel technologies still in development, a variety of complex Oracle stuff, and the overhyped industry concept of cloud computing. Oh, and I forgot to add that the two companies mix encryption into this nebulous morass.

I'm really not sure what to make of this announcement, so I'll respond by describing what I do know. We already have well-established ways to use encryption for authentication (i.e., Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI) and for protecting the confidentiality of data in transit (IPSec, SSL). We even have established hardware standards to support this on PCs and servers (Trusted Platform Module, or TPM). Given these existing standards, what the heck are Intel and Oracle talking about? My guess is that they are using some or all of these encryption technologies. If so, why the marketing spin?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The technology industry must abandon proprietary agendas and self-centered objectives and work together to collaborate on encryption and key management standards. My hope is that the Intel/Oracle announcement adheres to this philosophy. My fear is that it does not.