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Take the Oracle FUDbuster test
Why Oracle's RDBMS is for every cloud, despite what its salespeople might say
Sponsored Feature Like lots of other IT companies in recent years, Oracle has done its best to direct customers onto its own cloud. But Nick Walter, CTO at consulting company House of Brick, says it may have been more aggressive than most in pursuing that goal.
That is because Walter believes Oracle is spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) across multiple channels. "Its messaging suggests that all clouds other than its own are deficient," he says.
In practice, many companies have successfully used Oracle on Amazon Web Services (AWS), ranging from the US Department of Veterans Affairs through to one of Britain's largest power providers, EDF UK. But the company has also attempted to scare customers with stories of support issues and high licensing costs.
House of Brick offers a service called Oracle on AWS Quick Start – its Oracle FUDbuster - which is specifically designed to help those organizations better understand their Oracle license options and how they can be optimized, which amongst other things includes migrating Oracle software onto the AWS cloud.
Misleading cloud database customers
Contrary to Oracle's claims, the reality is that database workloads hosted on Oracle-engineered systems can perform well in a non-Oracle cloud. Exadata, for example, is available both as an on-prem system and on Oracle's cloud service, OCI. House of Brick's experts have heard the database vendor suggest that moving workloads away from these Oracle-engineered systems, like Exadata, to AWS will degrade performance.
Yet building some database tuning into those migrations will actually sustain Oracle performance in AWS even for the most demanding workloads, says House of Brick. Just helping customers to understand where their most expensive queries are happening and then how to optimize them can completely resolve the issue.
The other common refrain is that Oracle's license does not support certain applications or workloads outside Oracle Cloud, says Walter.
"While that's true in certain edge cases, 99 percent of the customer licenses I see are fully portable to the cloud," he says.
Of course, the best way to spook a CIO is through their wallet. Tell them that a migration decision is going to seriously deplete their budget and you will stop them in their tracks. This is a favorite Oracle tactic according to Walter, who says that Oracle frequently tells customers its products are twice as expensive to run on competitors' clouds as on its own.
The situation is usually more nuanced than that, he says, explaining that a lot depends on the individual organization's migration decisions. House of Brick has previously argued that the longstanding on-prem best practice is to over-specify the database's hardware requirements to maintain performance over a three-to-five-year refresh cycle for on-prem equipment, which is not the case for cloud services.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)-based Oracle customers must right-size their databases as they migrate to manage provisioning and keep computing and licensing costs low, Walter says.
Even lift-and-shift to EC2 offers some cost benefits that show up in long-term savings rather than cash flow, he points out. "It streamlines some functions," he says. "You don't have to get in touch with a storage vendor to resolve issues, and you don't have to troubleshoot networking equipment."
An organization that migrates to a fully managed service, like Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for Oracle, will still need to do its due diligence with a workflow analysis and some right-sizing work. This is where AWS has specialized experts, partners, and tools to assist - and the customer will likely enjoy more agreeable operating costs, Walter asserts.
It takes care of more mundane functions normally left to the database administrator (DBA) and the sysadmin (what AWS calls 'undifferentiated heavy lifting') that helps to lower operating costs. Tasks like patching and backup recovery are managed on the customer's behalf, which enables the organization to do more with the staff that it has.
"This won't show up in your cash flow immediately but you'll see a slowing in headcount growth over time," Walter explains. Customers can conduct an optimization and license assessment (OLA) during discovery, or for a more in-depth cost-modeling exercise, a Cloud Readiness Assessment (CRA) with House of Brick.
The lowdown on Oracle licensing and support
Once a customer has used cloud efficiencies to drive down computing, networking, and storage costs, it will still face the elephant in the room: software licensing. This is typically a larger part of the overall ownership cost, but can be driven down with an appropriate cloud licensing strategy. The trick, says Walter, is to see through the smokescreen.
There are two licensing models for Oracle running on Amazon RDS for Oracle. The first is bring your own license (BYOL). This enables companies in a contractual agreement with Oracle to get into an alternative cloud environment.
Transferring an Oracle license does carry some potential caveats however.
"Oracle license agreements make no mention of public cloud," Walter explains. "Instead, they publish an extra-contractual grant." This document, with an accompanying one that lists Oracle authorized third party cloud environments, asks customers to count the number of virtual cores that they use.
"Because it's extra-contractual, Oracle can update it," he says. "So, they revise every couple of years with new restrictions. It's very confusing for customers."
There are other potential issues. Oracle ships its Enterprise Edition (EE) software with almost all features enabled even if the customer is not licensed for them, warns Walter. This can prompt inadvertent usage, becoming a potential cost trap for organizations without proper processes and monitoring of Oracle usage.
The alternative is the Amazon RDS for Oracle's license-included (LI) option, which includes Oracle Standard Edition 2 (SE2) in the usage pricing. Amazon's managed database service provides AWS-native tools that bring enterprise-level capabilities to the Standard Edition platform.
These include database cloning, high availability, and multi-region support, with the latter incorporating either cross-region automated backups to restore in another region, or simply having databases in other regions. Additional AWS tools and features, like Performance Insights and EBS encryption vs Advanced Security Option, can also help to reduce the need for EE and separately-licensed features.
House of Brick has frequently taken on-prem Enterprise Edition Oracle customers to Standard Edition license-included arrangements on RDS for Oracle because the RDS service has baked-in options to cover their needs, or because they simply have not been using the features in their EE license.
AWS offers a pricing calculator to help companies assess their costs before making the leap, so that they can be sure they are making the right financial decisions.
The availability of ongoing support can be another source of confusion for customers migrating an Oracle database onto another provider's cloud infrastructure, warns Walter.
"The company frequently casts doubt on their supportability," he warns, referencing a note issued by Oracle on December 15 2020 which stated that it did not support Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) on non-Oracle public clouds, including AWS.
Walter scoffs at this sort of messaging. The support note targeted Oracle customers and was hidden behind the firm's portal, he points out. This was backed by a marketing communications brochure accompanying the support note that he believes insinuated the dangers of non-Oracle clouds but cannot point to any specific technical flaw in AWS as a platform for running Oracle products.
Traditionally, Oracle has not certified all of the hardware systems that its products run on, he argues, pointing out that companies were never required to check Oracle compliance for all of their own server hardware. Why should it be any different in the cloud, he asks?
"We have experience with Oracle products working fine in AWS environments," he says, adding he has not seen any companies suffering from technical compatibility issues. "So, we think it's influenced by competitive concerns, not technical ones."
Three steps to Oracle migration heaven
Following migration best practices can sustain performance, cost, and reliability when running Oracle on AWS, Walter says. "Don't skimp on the planning and architecture phase."
Customers should ensure that they consider workload dependencies in their migration planning. Migration typically happens in waves, creating interim states where some databases and applications have been migrated to the cloud, while other related databases and applications still run on-prem, creating cross-talk. Avoiding as much cross-talk between these two domains is a key tactic.
This cross-domain consideration also raises what Walter says is the single most significant issue for migration teams: network bandwidth.
"It's very easy to underestimate the interdependencies that a database has," he says. "It often sits at the center of a spider's web, with everything talking to it." He advises migration teams to add extra bandwidth during the process to avert any potential problems from spiking traffic. AWS also has a physical presence in more regions than Oracle's cloud, which means low-latency connection to a local cloud region is going to be available to more customers in the world.
Companies should also think about their post-migration phase, which is often overlooked after the initial heavy lift. People go through three phases when moving to cloud operations, explains Walter. In the first, which he calls the adaptation phase, staff are simply feeling out their new environment.
Then comes the stability phase, where they are starting to understand the learning curve. "This is where they begin to appreciate how the cloud takes away some of the drudge work so that they have more time for strategic initiatives," he explains.
Finally comes what Walter calls the 'embracing the cloud' phase, which he says typically happens between six and 12 months after the initial migration. "This is where you see the seeds in phase two start to blossom as those strategic initiatives start to bear fruit," he says.
When a migration from on-prem Oracle to RDS goes well, this third step is when developers can begin paying down their technical debt in earnest. It is also when Walter sees them automating technical processes through the use of tools like Amazon's CloudFormation infrastructure as code service.
What happens when you finally turn off the FUD supply? Perhaps the fear and doubt being sown by the likes of Oracle is outshining the cloud opportunities, Walter muses.
Before you accept Oracle's claims about third-party clouds-based managed services, he concludes, consider all the options. "Self-managed databases are dinosaurs. There's no reason to do it yourself when others can do it for you."
Sponsored by AWS.