More than one year and a half ago Oracle has broken its happy marriage with VMware, announcing its own hypervisor and clarifying that its software is not supported on ESX or any other 3rd party virtualization platform.
As a matter of fact the new support policy that Oracle introduced obliges its customers to adopt Oracle VM Server or give up virtualization (here’s a very recent and deep analysis of the support policy provided by an Oracle professional).
At that time the public reaction of VMware was firm but polite, expressed in a long document that explains why Oracle products run well on ESX.
Probably VMware didn’t react more aggressively in the hope to recover the relationship with the database vendor, knowing how critical is Oracle for its audience. But so far there’s no data about how many customers really followed the VMware suggestion deciding to virtualize anyway.
Now, someone at EMC, the VMware parent company, must have decided that it’s finally time to take a strong position on this topic.
For the first time in public to our knowledge, not one but two high-level executives at EMC decided to comment the Oracle support policy: Chad Sakac, Vice President of VMware Technology Alliance, and Chuck Hollis, Vice President, Global Marketing CTO, used their personal blogs, the same day, to attack Oracle and incite the customers to rebel:
Customer after customer is telling me about Oracle sales heavy-handed tactics pushing them away from VMware. Consistently, they point to a well-known metalink article. Now, clear support positions are a GOOD THING. But in this case, Oracle seems to be calling out a position where normally they don’t.
Has Oracle put the fear of god into you re: Oracle on VMware? Have your Oracle sales teams pointed to the metalink article and said “it’s not supported on VMware, don’t do it”? While there’s no question an ISV is entitled to bring you a value proposition of “the full stack” – what do you think about ISVs who dictate a specific infrastructure design, particularly when it diverges with what you’re trying to do in the datacenter? If you’re not happy about Oracle’s support position – and are an Oracle customer – POST YOUR COMMENTS below!
VMware Functionality Competes With Oracle DBMS Features
Now we’re getting warmer. Much warmer.
Oracle hasn’t come out and said this to the best of my knowledge, but it’s pretty clear to many of us that this is the case.
Let’s construct a side-by-sde mental model of two similar Oracle DBMS configurations.
On one hand, we’ve got a multi-server configuration running Oracle’s latest (and most expensive) RAC product. It’s doing load balancing, high availability, and making the hardware function as a giant pool.
On the other hand, we’ve got the same multi-server configuration running the much cheaper Oracle SE on VMware.
It too is load balancing, offers high availability, and makes the hardware function as a single giant pool. Many of the management tasks are handled quite well outside of Oracle’s domain.
By the way, none of those features can be found in Oracle’s hypervisor. Why would Oracle want any functionality in a hypervisor that’s open source?
And VMware brings a few very cool features to the table that Oracle doesn’t, like real fault tolerance. Or Dynamic Power Management. Or Site Recovery Manager. The list goes on and on.
Not that anyone I know would ever want their Oracle databases to run fully fault tolerant on industry-standard hardware 🙂
And wouldn’t it be very surprising if — for some workloads — customers saw far more performance and throughput from the VMware / Oracle SE database config as compared to the much more pricey Oracle RAC configuration?
Maybe Oracle could fight it out with VMware toe-to-toe on the finer points of performance, functionality, etc. — but why bother?
So much easier to create the impression that Oracle doesn’t support VMware, and move on.
Larry Wants To Own The Stack
Some of the more interesting statements made by Larry Ellison and his team as part of the Sun announcement point to their vision that Oracle could now provide a complete solution “from database to disk”.
Now, if that’s Oracle’s strategic goal, it would be very inconvenient indeed if customers preferred to break up that nice stack with a cloud operating system from VMware, wouldn’t it?
To spend all that money on Sun, and not be able to “close the walls of the garden” so to speak — well, that just wouldn’t do in the grand scheme of things, would it?
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but when IT vendor strategy guys get together, they talk about emerging stacks, control points, where you want to be open and where you don’t, where you monetize and where you commoditize, and so on.
Not to share deep industry secrets here, but it’s a very common strategic framework for how IT vendors think about assembling their portfolios.
And having VMware inconveniently show up in the Oracle’s new stack with all these radical capabilities just isn’t a good thing for Oracle’s implied strategy with Sun.
Put differently, if you’re Oracle, you don’t want a really big and important strategic control point in your stack being owned by someone else.
That’s a bad scenario for Oracle. However, that’s a very good scenario for customers…
As both Sakac and Hollis used their personal blog this cannot be considered the EMC official position, but still the role, visibility and credibility of both executives is so high that their words can’t be taken as just the rant of an average blogger.
The fact that VMware is spreading their posts through its huge community using Twitter confirms that Sakac and Holly’s personal positions are pretty much echoing the official sentiment at VMware and EMC.
The big question now is not what Oracle will answer to that, but why EMC is reacting so strong in public only today.
Is EMC already seeing Oracle-Sun as a dangerous competitor?
Or is this an attempt to drive more sales to VMware now that the company expects its first negative quarter revenue?
Or is this the indirect answer to the recent critics that Oracle expressed against VMware about its virtual appliance strategy?
In any case it’s hard to believe that it’s just a coincidence.
Considering the current state of the global economy, the customers may want to use this
opportunity to ask for an official answer. It may appear on the new Oracle virtualization blog, where the company started its indirect skirmish with VMware a few weeks ago.
For sure it’s unlikely that the answer will be pleasing. Larry Ellison, the Oracle CEO, made it very clear in the Sun acquisition announcement:
Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system – applications to disk – where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves. Our customers benefit as their systems integration costs go down while system performance, reliability and security go up.
It’s easy to guess that Oracle will do everything possible to keep its customers on its brand new full computing stack.
Update: The remarkable number of comments generated by this article led to a follow-up which addresses several questions and misconceptions about the Oracle products and support policy.
The new article is here and it’s highly recommended that you read it.