Oracle and VMware Announce Oracle Cloud VMware Solution

Dave Welch (@OraVBCA), CTO & Chief Evangelist

Today at Oracle Open World, Larry Ellison announced what a simulcast VMware blog calls Oracle Cloud VMware Solution (OCVS). I’m thinking Larry announced OVM’s deprecation. But we’ll get to that later. Here’s what Larry said in less than a minute and a half using a single slide:

“We’ve got a close partnership with VMware per the agreement we just signed, we’re the only cloud that will allow you to manage your own VMware stack. What I mean by that is if your VMware stack that you’re running on-prem right now, you can lift and shift it intact to the Oracle cloud. You can use your existing tools, your existing operational procedures. Or you can take your on-prem VMware environment and link it up to OCI. We let you really control version management, operations, upgrade time of the VMware stack, making it easy, enabling you to migrate, if that’s what you want to do, it enables you to migrate from on-prem into the cloud with almost no change—virtually no change. A very big deal. A very important announcement…”

Here are selective quotes from VMware Corporation’s simulcast announcement:

The centerpiece of this relationship is a new service that will be offered by Oracle called Oracle Cloud VMware Solution…

Oracle and VMware have entered into a new mutual support agreement for currently supported Oracle products running on VMware environments.

Quote from the mutual support agreement:  “Oracle shall, using reasonable efforts, support Oracle customers with active support contracts running supported versions of Oracle products in Oracle supported computing environments who encounter problems when running those products on VMware virtualized environments.”

Under this new partnership, customers will be able to support their hybrid cloud strategies by running VMware Cloud Foundation on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
As a part of this partnership, Oracle will also provide technical support for Oracle software running in VMware environments both in customer on-premise data centers and Oracle-certified cloud environments
“VMware is delighted that for the first time, Oracle will officially offer technical support for Oracle products running on VMware. This is a win-win for customers,” said Sanjay Poonen, chief operating officer, customer operations, VMware
Oracle will provide administrative access to the underlying physical servers, enabling a level of control previously only possible on premise, and customers will be able to use VMware vCenter to manage both their on-premise clusters and Oracle Cloud-based SDDCs through a single pane of glass. Oracle will also provide first line technical support for this solution.

Years ago, VMware approached AWS after VMware’s vCloud Air was seriously lagging in the market. Comparing Oracle Cloud Infrastructure’s market share looks even more dichotomous.

Why would Oracle even be interested in such a partnership? After all, they have Oracle Virtual Machine. (Chuckle.) But again, I’ll hold my OVM eulogy until I cover other issues.

What the Announcement Is

Notice VMware’s quoting of the Oracle/VMware agreement in which all Oracle products will be supported in customer on-premise clusters and Oracle Certified Cloud environments.

  • Although not an agreement between Oracle and Oracle customers, this Oracle/VMware agreement quote is a breath of fresh air compared to MyOracleSupport note 249212.1. In my observation, that note has really just been an Oracle Sales sledge hammer to daunt customers from adopting VMware. The support note currently says if you’re running on VMware and encounter a problem not in Oracle’s knowledge base, you will be compelled to replatform to bare metal to prove the problem. In all our years of architecting and supporting business critical Oracle workloads on VMware, we have only ever heard of one customer that had to replatform for diagnostics purposes. It seems to me that the Oracle/VMware agreement would necessitate Oracle’s amending of 249212.1.

9/17/19 update: Amazingly, of the statements I am aware of, more clarity on this issue is being provided by the Oracle statements than the VMware statements. Oracle’s 9/16/19 blog post on the issue states:

Along with the ability to run VMware on Oracle Cloud, the partnership will include expanded technical support for Oracle products running on VMware virtualized environments. This will improve the ability to run Oracle Database and applications in VMware environments, whether in our cloud, in other clouds, or in customer data centers. (emphasis added)

That implies a lot that can be taken to the bank. AWS is the undisputed premier “other cloud”. I would have to imagine the other four of the six industry-acknowledged “big providers” would be implied as well. Furthermore, it would make no sense for Oracle’s Cloud Licensing Policy to list AWS and Azure as “authorized cloud environments”, yet not include them both in the “other clouds” referred to in the 9/16/19 joint support statement.

And as long as we’re on the topic of support, a VMware official made this statement concerning the agreement:

“VMware is delighted that for the first time, Oracle will officially offer technical support for Oracle products running on VMware.”

I’m sorry, but that statement is false. Oracle has officially been offering technical support for Oracle products running on VMware for well over a decade (MyOracleSupport note 249212.1). Should someone believe the statement, it could drag with it the implication that legacy Oracle on VMware customers had put themselves in a risky support situation despite authoritative assurances to the contrary.

What the Announcement is Not

This is not VMware Cloud on AWS or Dell/EMC, at least not yet. The announcement is VMware Cloud Foundation running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). There’s a huge difference.

Nothing in the announcement changes Oracle’s Oracle on VMware licensing policy, which has no merit in the contract.

During their investors’ call last week, Oracle’s leadership said (and/or implied) over and over that if your cloud solution doesn’t consist of 100% tooling from the same vendor, it’s illegitimate or at least not as good. (Cough.)

Will we see VMware-enabled Exadata, Exalogic, and Exalytics? On the one hand, Oracle Corporate speakers at IOUG the year Oracle announced the OVM option on Exadata suggested not using it unless you really needed it. I would think Ellison decided to move forward with this VMware alliance as it promotes the all-important-to-Oracle Cloud. The last place I’d want my financially-optimizing VMware tooling would be on the customarily CPU-bloated, and therefore financially de-optimized, Exa hardware.

The Securities Class Complaint and City of Providence lawsuit allege Cloud credits were DOA—85-90% of those “customers” had no intention of using them at all, let alone renewing them. Will Oracle allow Oracle Cloud “customers” that got SaaS credits (as opposed to OCI credits) the privilege of converting those credits to OCVS? Larry was having a great time today self-congratulating on Oracle’s generosity. We’ll see how far that generosity extends.

How long will this Oracle/VMware relationship last? The fact that Oracle and VMware have a contract may not mean that the party that sells the product has to continue to sell it. There have been a few affiliations through the years that have worked at least for a period of time, even though Oracle didn’t own the whole stack. I’m reminded of the IBM RS/6000 relationship of the early ‘90’s. However, I’m also reminded of the Oracle/HP relationship where they were both on stage and Ellison said in so many words, “This is the relationship.” A year later when Ellison acted on the itch to get into the hardware business, he booted HP to the curb so fast their heads were spinning.

Now VMware’s name is associated with OCI’s operational reputation. It won’t be long before we have a substantial sample of customer feedback on OCI’s operations. I would be quite happy to learn that the OCI environment’s former bad rap is no longer merited.

Before anyone rushes into OCVS however, have a good look at the Oracle Cloud Agreement’s prohibition against probing for security testing. If you can’t probe, you have no security. If the contractual prohibition against probing doesn’t change with this announcement, I’m afraid I still can’t recommend it.

OVM Eulogy

It’s been an interesting journey getting to this point.

December 2004 brought the first agreement between Oracle and VMware Corporation, from which the excerpt below was taken.

Oracle Server Technologies development teams plan to standardize on VMware virtual infrastructure as part of the standard Linux and Windows x86 development, test and support environment for Oracle Database 10g, Oracle Application Server 10g, Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g, and Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g.

With more than 7,000 VMware virtual machines proposed for internal deployment, Oracle Server Technologies division plans to use VMware virtual infrastructure as a standard virtualized development platform for its database products.

Two and a half years later (Spring 2007), two mild-mannered full time Oracle employee ESX administrators submitted their abstract for VMworld 2007.

Then July 2007 hit and the Oracle/VMware relationship came apart. It was palpable. For years the summer 2007 Oracle Magazine hard copy sat on House of Brick Principal Architect Jeff Klemme’s desk. The article had a four-page Oracle RAC on VMware cookbook in it that mysteriously disappeared from the online edition. Oracle began misrepresenting the contract to Oracle on VMware customers (you know the message). According to Oracle, VMware environments had to be licensed prospectively based on the capability of moving VMs anywhere within a cluster (at the time, vMotion was restricted to servers within a cluster).

Whatever the actual interaction, or event, that may have triggered Oracle’s chill toward VMware, it’s painfully obvious that Oracle woke up to the fact that VMware’s CPU utilization optimization induced a massive hemorrhage in Oracle’s core technology license revenue. Oracle had to have its own hypervisor.

Fall 2007: the two Oracle employee ESX administrators presented their VMworld paper. Oracle’s fiscal 2007 saw 14,200 downloads by Oracle’s worldwide sales team of 120 VMware Workstation VMs from 34 ESX servers that the speakers had under administration at the time the deck was finalized. The server count had grown to 40 before VMworld hit. Oracle found out about the session and asked VMware to delete the session’s deck and audio.

November 11, 2007: House of Brick pre-announced OVM in our Bricks newsletter based on an Oracle manager’s disclosure to a military trade rag. Personally, I was really hoping that Oracle would step up and compete with VMware technically and financially, but it never happened. You can’t provide financial competition if you don’t provide technical competition.

November 13, 2007 (Wednesday): Larry announced Oracle Virtual Machine during his keynote. Then he sent his marketing team scrambling when he announced his virtual machine was three times more performant. The following day Oracle marketing clarified that claim as relating to overhead. Larry said he would have shown comparison performance numbers, but contract NDA prohibited him from doing so. (VMware said he never asked.) Ellison also indicated that Oracle would provide a cookbook so people could do their own bakeoffs. It was about six months later when TechTarget called Oracle out for not providing the long-awaited cookbook. Oracle never provided it… of course.

Meanwhile, OVM languished. Years after OVM’s GA release, IDC tried to pull together a statistical analysis of the OVM install base but couldn’t get a statistically significant sample. So, they punted to respected trade publication TechTarget, who did a survey of 300 Oracle customers. The result: about 1% were running anything on OVM in production. That was no surprise given the problems OVM customers were having.

I learned respect for Wim Coekaerts’ Oracle Enterprise Linux/Oracle Virtual Machine team in my interactions as early as 2003. I have always refused to believe his team couldn’t stabilize its hypervisor (derived from Open Source Xen) unless the team had some incentive not to do so. Yet House of Brick was encountering substantial, predictable OVM instability years into its GA release. I recall one sad, but oh so typical, call from a scaled organization running OVM 3.1.2 asking if we could give them any assurance that Oracle would release a stable OVM in the foreseeable future. They were tired of having their heads taken off by the business units, and had blown well through all of their uptime SLAs. Our CEO, Nathan Biggs, hit me with a needed perspective three years ago: “Dave, hasn’t it occurred to you that Oracle doesn’t want OVM to be stable? If OVM were stable, it would induce the same workload optimization and hemorrhage of Oracle processor metric revenue that VMware induces.” Of course.

Two or three years ago: The second agreement between Oracle and VMware Corporation was announced – a fuller Oracle on VMware support statement limited to a niche E-Business Suite module.

So, today’s Oracle Cloud VMware Solution announcement is Oracle and VMware’s third agreement.

And with today’s announcement, I’m thinking OVM’s death knell just rang. Well, really OVM was gone already. Actually, it was never there. From my vantage point, Oracle’s accomplishments in 13 years with OVM appears to be limited to:

  • Competing with VMware and Hyper-V in the trade magazines.
  • Discouraging VMware and Hyper-V implementations by “certifying” on OVM (whatever that means).

Some Advice for VMware

Quoting a 2012 Forbes article: “It’s not too often that Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese military strategist and Al Pacino of “The Godfather” give the same wise business advice: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I predict Oracle Cloud VMware Solution will be an interesting ride for VMware, let alone OCVS customers.

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