If you were expecting some dramatic, cloudy news from Oracle and Microsoft, as the companies hinted last week they would reveal, you were likely disappointed by the nuts and bolts nature of what the two companies announced on Monday as part of an extended strategic partnership.
No, Oracle is not shutting down its public cloud and moving customers to Windows Azure – or Amazon Web Services, for that matter. But now customers using Oracle's 11g and 12c databases and WebLogic middleware will be able to deploy those database and middleware programs on top of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, which now has a 30 per cent market share among x86 server virtualization hypervisors compared to about 52 per cent for VMware's ESXi.
Oracle's databases have long been certified to run atop bare-metal servers running current and past Windows Server versions, and while technically you can get them to work atop Hyper-V, that is not the same thing as having Oracle support behind running Oracle 11g or WebLogic Server on top of that hypervisor. Enterprises are extremely conservative when it comes to the databases and middleware that are, for all intense and purposes, their core back-end applications, so not having support for Hyper-V is a big deal.
Neither Microsoft nor Oracle gave out any details on the brief call on Monday announcing the strategic partnership, but presumably Oracle is certifying its database and middleware software to run on Hyper-V 3.0, the version of Microsoft's hypervisor that is paired with Windows Server 2012, announced last fall.
Oracle, of course, would rather that customers deploy virtualized instances of its database and middleware software atop its own Oracle VM implementation of the open source Xen hypervisor. And, truth be told, it would rather they run the Oracle systems software atop Oracle Linux, its own variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But some Oracle customers – and neither Microsoft nor Oracle would say how many – run Oracle's wares on top of Windows and are allergic to Linux and Unix.
So at some point, if Oracle wants to preserve its market share on top of the Windows platform, it has to cut a deal with Microsoft or watch as Microsoft encroaches with Windows and SQL Server, one customer at a time and involving great amounts of coercion.
With more and more Windows customers adopting Hyper-V for more than just carving up servers for basic infrastructure, there had to be a Hyper-V support clause in any deal between Microsoft and Oracle. And once you have Hyper-V support, well, you get support for the Windows Azure cloud by default, technically speaking.
And so the two companies have worked out terms to allow Oracle's database and middleware to run on the Azure cloud. This puts Azure more or less on par with Amazon Web Services, which has been able to run Oracle 11g databases on its EC2 compute cloud since 2011.
Under the terms of the agreement, enterprises that have Oracle software licenses will be able to move them out to Windows Azure, and if they have Oracle software running on the Azure cloud and want to move it back into the data center, Oracle will allow this, as well.
Oracle offered the same portability terms to customers of its Oracle Public Cloud, allowing them to move applications and systems software as they see fit. You can review the Oracle cloud licensing terms here (PDF), and they are exactly the same on Azure as on AWS. Virtual cores on a cloud are treated like actual cores on bare metal servers. (Unfortunately, a virtual core is often but a slice of a physical core, so be careful out there.) The same processor core scaling factors that are used to adjust licenses for the Enterprise Edition of Oracle's database also apply to virtual cores.
Of course, if you want to run Oracle middleware on Windows Azure, you need to have the proper Java and Oracle tech support behind it, so the two companies have agreed to get the official Oracle Java development kits and runtimes out onto Microsoft's cloud, rather than using OpenJDK versions that are not officially supported by Oracle.
"This makes Java much more first class with the Oracle support on Azure," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business.
The last piece of the alliance between Oracle and Microsoft relates to Oracle Linux, which will now be an officially sanctioned version of Linux running on Azure Virtual Machines compute instances. Oracle Linux now joins SUSE Linux's Enterprise Server and Canonical's Ubuntu Server as an officially sanctioned Linux on Azure. (Red Hat Enterprise Linux is still MIA.)
If you are thinking that Microsoft and Oracle have somehow forgotten that they compete in the systems, middleware, database, and application software businesses, don't. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was clear about this even as he explained that the two companies had come to a tipping point where they had to do some kind of deal.
"A lot has happened," Ballmer explained, "but we are going to continue to compete in areas. I think both companies have always – at least for many, many years – had respect for one another and have done the work our customers have really wanted us to do. Maybe a little bit more behind the scenes to get Windows Server and the Oracle database, middleware server, and applications to run.
"In the world of cloud computing, I think that behind-the-scenes collaboration is not enough because people wanted more from us, people wanted more from Oracle. And frankly, the relationships between the two companies ... have evolved, despite the fact that we continue to compete, in a very positive and constructive manner on a number of fronts."
While El Reg speculated last week that Oracle's impending multi-tenant, cloud-friendly Oracle 12c database running on Windows Azure would be the center of this announcement, the two companies did not specifically talk about 12c. And it is not clear when it, or any of the other Oracle software, will be packaged up and ready to roll on Azure. Oracle co-president Mark Hurd said that that Big Red's software and support for running it on Hyper-V and Azure would be effective immediately. But these things take time, no matter what the top brass says.
With Oracle running its database software and Java on AWS and Azure, this begins to call into question the Oracle Public Cloud, which is a combination of a an infrastructure and platform cloud that Oracle runs itself and an application and database hosting business that Oracle has run for more than a decade.
Oracle's cloud has more than 5,000 customers, which is a lot if they are all spending big bucks, but it is puny compared to the clouds being built by AWS, Google, and Microsoft. While every IT vendor thinks they can operate a cloud, the volume economics are just not always in their favor. It may be only a matter of time before Oracle sees the sense in letting Microsoft and AWS build the clouds, and just take orders for its software. It all depends on how much ego Larry Ellison has invested in cloud.
Probably a lot less than he has invested in Oracle profits, yacht racing, and private islands. ®