Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Oracle Wins Virtual Iron, Customers Lose

by on May.14, 2009, under Storage

Oracle Wins Virtual Iron, Customers Lose

EMC logo Oracle Wins Virtual Iron, Customers Lose

Sometimes you see things in this industry that make you shake your head and wonder. Such is the situation with Oracle’s recent acquisition of Virtual Iron. Put in the context of other recent activities, the picture is crystal clear: it…

Sometimes you see things in this industry that make you shake your head and wonder.

Such is the situation with Oracle’s recent acquisition of Virtual Iron

Put in the context of other recent activities, the picture is crystal clear: it appears that Oracle intends to use their market power with databases to force customers to consider their soon-to-be-announced virtualization stack.

And, from a customer perspective, this will not be a good thing.

Denial Is Not A River In Egypt, It’s The Oracle Approach To VMware

I stirred this pot for the first time on a recent blog post, offering up potential reasons as to why Oracle was behaving the way they were.  Turns out that it looks like my most nefarious scenario might be the real reason.

Jeff Browning is doing an excellent job of smoking out how Oracle is methodically editing their support statements to preclude any whiff of anyone possibly concluding that Oracle intends to support VMware in any fashion. 

As an experiment, I got onto various Oracle web sites, and tried searching for “VMware”.  You might want to try it.  Scary results.  Almost like someone is methodically going through ten gaziliion documents and removing any reference whatsoever. 

Being a child of the Cold War, thoughts of revisionist history came to mind :-)

Oracle Is No Dummy

They’ve spent a few billion to acquire an IT infrastructure player — Sun.  They realize that virtualization is *the* key technology that will transform how we thing about IT infrastructure — in the data center, or in private clouds.

And I’m guessing that they have no intention of rolling over and letting VMware (or Hyper-V, or anything else) deny them that key strategic control point.

Now, you might think this is just a few IT titans wrestling in the marketplace, but my concern is that customers are going to get hurt by this as well.  I’m already seeing evidence, and it really bothers me.

It’s just not right.

Trying To Standardize? 

Almost all of my IT customers want to standardize on a single virtualization layer.  They’d like to use one consistent set of technology to virtualize server applications, virtualize desktop applications and virtualize all the supporting cast of management, security, backup, etc. as well.

And, not surprisingly, they’ve all chosen VMware as the direction they’d like to go.

It appears that Oracle is going to try and bust up this happy customer-centric vision.  It looks like they’re going to use customers’ dependence on the Oracle database to force a separately architected, separately managed and separately supported virtualization layer on their customer base.

And Oracle has decided to completely ignore the de-facto market share leadership position of VMware as a minor nuisance.  Oracle wins, customers lose.

Trying To Get More From Your Infrastructure?

There are a host of useful features in VMware that we’ll probably never see in the Oracle hypervisor.

I could make a long list of seriously differentiated technology, but let’s highlight three areas of particular interest: SRM (site recovery manager), DPM (distributed power management) and the newer Fault Tolerance feature.

SRM dramatically reduces the cost and effort associated with remote recovery.  It’s a game changer.  At EMC, we’ve been doing remote replication since the mid 1990′s.  We’re enthusiastically recommending SRM to all our customers.   Works great for applications large and small, including lots of experience we’ve got with Oracle databases.

Sorry, Mr. Customer.  You’ll have to live with a separate, clunky, inefficient and expensive Oracle Officially Supported Alternative.  Oracle wins, customers lose.

Let’s take DPM — this is the newer vSphere feature that lets compute clusters dynamically relocate workloads to a fewer number of servers if demand is low, and power down the unused servers until they’re needed again.  Completely transparent to most operations.  Experience so far has shown an average of an additional 50% server power savings over a typical 24 hour cycle — and that’s in addition to the power savings you get from going from physical to virtual.

Sorry, Mr. Customer.  You’re going to have to keep all those Oracle database servers powered on 24×7 whether you’re using them or not.  Hope you like big power bills.  Oracle wins, customers lose.

And, finally, let’s consider vSphere’s newer fault tolerance feature — the ability to have one virtual machine pick up *exactly* where a failed server has left off — no cluster failover, no reboot, no interruption to users whatsover.

Sorry, Mr. Customer.  I guess you can’t consider Oracle for vSphere fault tolerant environments.  Maybe SQLserver, maybe UDB, maybe something else — but not the Oracle database since that feature isn’t in the Oracle Officially Supported Alternative.  Oracle wins, customers lose.

Sure, I’m on a bit of a rant here, but I think you get my point — there’s a slew of really valuable capabilities in vSphere that Oracle prefers to ignore simply because they see it as being in their own best interest, and not their customers.

That ticks me off.

Trying To Find New Choices?

You might be aware that there are many, many service providers starting to stand up private clouds to host customer applications using VMware under the vCloud initiative.  Customers like the idea of choice — being able to run workloads in their own data center, or from any number of compatible service providers — all using the same standard technology.

Now, Oracle hasn’t made any announcements yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they took that option off the table as well, and decided to support only the Oracle Officially Supported Alternative, which — in this case — would presumably be an Oracle-owned and Oracle-operated data center.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Now, you know I talk to large customers frequently, and — frankly — they’re pissed at all of this.  With Oracle’s latest moves regarding Sun and now Virtual Iron, they can clearly see what’s going on here.  And they’re starting to figure out how they want to play this.

One smart fellow told Oracle that they were starting a large-scale proof-of-concept around Microsoft’s SQLserver as the strategic alternative to the Oracle database.  The Microsoft team was more than happy to help, as were we at EMC.  I don’t know how it’s going to end, but I bet that Oracle does a special deal with this guy regarding VMware support as a result.

Another guy told me he was starting to contract with one of the focused Oracle boutique consulting organizations for most support issues — they had no problem with VMware — and denying Oracle services revenue in the process.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing about more of this in the future.

The Ironic Part Of All This

We’ve seen that any software vendor that embraces VMware sees their license counts grow signficantly.  The reason is simple — anything packaged in a virtual machine is easier to buy, easier to install, easier to support, easier to manage, and so on.

By taking all the “infrastructure friction” out of your software title, people tend to buy more of your stuff, and not less.  We’ve seen this with some of EMC’s software titles (e.g. Avamar), and we’ll see a whole lot more of this in the future.

Put differently, if Oracle embraced VMware, they’d likely see their license business grow significantly, especially in the enterprises that are aggressive virtualizing with VMware — which is just about all of them :-)

The Bottom Line

If there’s one philisophical lesson we should all remember in our industry, it’s this: customers will choose, vendors can’t dictate. 

I wonder how long it will be before Oracle comes around and realizes that they’re missing a trick here?

Let me know your thoughts — thanks!

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