Longtime rivals Microsoft and Oracle make nice in cloud-database (and apps) pact

steveballmer

Get ready for the skies to rain frogs: As of now, Oracle will certify and support Oracle databases, along with its applications, Oracle Linux, and Java to run on Microsoft Hyper-V and Windows Azure platforms. And Oracle customers can run their existing Oracle-licensed software on Azure as of now. The news was announced Monday by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Windows and Tools group president Satya Nadella and Oracle co-president Mark Hurd.

The two companies, which are long-time rivals in the database and middleware world, will work together to certify those applications on those platforms and execs on both sides said the pact was driven by joint customers of the companies.

It also represents a dramatic step for Oracle, which in the past has strongly discouraged customers from running anything but Oracle VM virtualization. In fact, it often would push back on support calls and ask customers to prove that their problem was related to Oracle and not to any third-party virtualization. That tactic typically went over like a lead balloon. Now, Hyper-V is clearly a near-first class citizen in Oracle’s world and that alone is worth a headline.

Azure already supported Java but via the Open JDK, an open source iteration of Java, Nadella said. “With this we have the official versions, licensed and supported from Oracle directly as part of their middleware stack as well as applications,” he said.

This deal is both bigger than and less than what had been anticipated. Last week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison indicated on the company’s earnings call that third parties “like Microsoft” would utilize new multitenancy and other goodies in the upcoming Oracle 12C database, in their cloud offerings. No mention of that was made on Monday, although it is still possible. But folks (ahem, that would be me) expected today’s news to be about Oracle’s databases running on Windows Azure —¬†and the fact that its WebLogic application server and applications would run there too was a surprise — even though it shouldn’t have been.

As should be expected, execs on both sides of the deal touted hybrid cloud as the model most enterprises will embrace, because it will let them keep some of their data and IP in-house while taking advantage of public cloud resources when needed. Hurd also said Oracle would continue to build its own “open cloud” efforts.

But to me this looks like an alliance designed to fend off further poaching of enterprise workloads by Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest public cloud and could also be seen as a counterweight to VMware which is trying to parlay its lead in server virtualization within company data centers to the cloud with its new vCloud Hybrid service.

As 451 Group Analyst Carl Brooks pointed out, companies have been able to run Oracle databases on AWS for some time. The hindrance to adoption, however, has been that Oracle and Microsoft licensing makes it more attractive for users to opt for other, lower priced options — Ubuntu or other Linux instead of Windows on the OS side or MySQL not Oracle for database. The companies did say they will offer pay-per-use options as well as the ability to move existing licenses to Azure, so we’ll have to see just how competitive those options are.

Until these enterprise software companies make it both price competitive and easy to run their software in the cloud, they will continue to struggle with this deployment model and could see more enterprise workloads flow to Amazon’s public cloud.

This story was updated throughout the conference call with additional information.

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