In my travels and customer discussions, this particular topic is coming up more and more frequently.
Now that EMC and VMware and other vendors are encouraging customers to seriously consider virtualizing their more critical applications, it's going to become a increasingly hot topic.
As a matter of fact, I'm now quite ready when I hear the familiar "well, Oracle doesn't support VMware".
Getting to the truth of why this actually might be has proven a bit difficult. It's not something the Oracle people really want to talk about.
In the meantime, I've put together a list of possible reasons why this could be, and offered a bit of commentary as to the thinking behind it.
So let's go take a look at what could possibly be behind this rather unproductive stance towards customers.
I ought to put in a disclaimer here.
I'm not representing Oracle's official position (or EMC's official position!) in any capacity.
Just sharing a few thoughts, folks :-)
Paradoxically, I am told that the actual details of Oracle's official support stance towards VMware is somewhat reasonable when you take the time to hunt it down, decompile exactly what they're saying, and have someone explain it to you -- but the general perception from customers is that Oracle really doesn't like people running their products on VMware.
Never mind that their internal developers use it extensively :-)
I also would like to point out that I see Oracle as a hyper-rational company. Everything they do is for a very clear reason.
You may not like the reason, but it's always there.
#1 -- Oracle DBMS Doesn't Run Well In A Virtual Machine
There's a mountain of evidence that shows a single VMware virtual machine running an off-the-shelf Oracle database scales nicely up to 8 virtual CPUs, uses great gobs of RAM and tens of thousands of transactions per second.
And, with every new tick-tock of Intel's processor line, it's just getting bigger and faster.
Another point: I'm aware of literally many hundreds of customers who do just this as a normal matter of running their business -- without any drama whatsoever.
Some may push a bit and say "well, there's an I/O tax" or something similar. There's no denying that a hypervisor adds a tiny bit of overhead to bare metal or native operating systems, but it's quite reasonable, and dramatically outweighed by the advantages that virtualization gives you in other areas.
By the way, Oracle doesn't seem to have any of these concerns if you use *their* hypervisor :-)
#2 -- Oracle Hasn't Seen Enough Demand From Customers To Support This.
I almost sprayed my coffee on the laptop the first time I heard this.
I put it in the same general category as saying "Oracle hasn't seen enough demand from customers to support Intel processors, or the Windows operating system".
C'mon guys -- get real. It's 2009. You can do better than that.
#3 -- Oracle Can't Get The Support They Need From VMware
Well, I didn't choke quite so badly when I heard this for the first time, but my blood pressure did rise a bit.
It's a common tactic in the industry to blame the other guy when you just don't want to do something. But, in this case, it's just not true.
Now, I work with VMware on a day-in and day-out basis, and I can personally attest that the VMware team would jump through many flaming hoops and crawl over broken glass to support Oracle's customers in any reasonable fashion.
Same for EMC. Probably true for other server vendors as well. So, in my mind, this is a convenient misdirection.
No, folks, I really believe it's something else entirely.
#4 -- 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.
Now we're starting to get to a reasonable scenario as to why Oracle would work very hard to discourage customers from using VMware.
People would figure out that just maybe they didn't need the full-boat Oracle RAC, and could do very nicely indeed with the far more cost-effective Oracle SE version.
The result? The Oracle sales force would have to spend time and effort fighting it out with a VMware-based approach. And, inevitably, a lot less DBMS license revenue and maintenance ends up in Oracle's pocket.
That might explain a lot, yes?
#5 -- 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.
Where Does That Leave Us?
At the exact same place that occurs every time a major industry vendor declines to support and embrace an emerging de-facto standard.
The only cure is sustained and overwhelming customer demand. Sooner or later, vendors do get the message.
As an example, both Microsoft and SAP started out on one side of the VMware support fence, and had to move to the other. Now it's Oracle's turn, IMHO.
But they're a stubborn bunch over there at Oracle. If you think back over Oracle's history, you know that they try all sorts of interesting things and hang tough for a while, but tend to give them up quickly if they don't work out.
I think that's the case here -- and here's how you can help speed up the process.
Put the pressure on. Don't meekly roll over and say 'golly gee, I guess that's that".
Use your voice as a consumer of enterprise IT products to say "hey, I'm in charge here, not you!"
Call them on it -- loudly and publicly.
If you're a customer, and you're hearing this "Oracle doesn't support VMware" story from an Oracle person, a bit of righteous anger might help.
For example, you might try something like this: how dare Oracle attempt to control my IT infrastructure strategy by declining to support software they don't like?
What's next -- you're going to tell me that you only run on SPARC and Solaris? (don't laugh ...)
It also might be helpful to get an informal list of larger customers where Oracle has tried this play, and it just hasn't worked.
I get to meet people who get Oracle support for VMware quite frequently. And Oracle doesn't seem to give them any unusual grief about it, either.
What is there, a two-tier system for supporting customers with VMware? If you're a big and powerful IT consumer, you can force Oracle to support VMware, otherwise you're stuck?
Now that just isn't right, is it? :-)
I'd Really Like To Hear From The People At Oracle
Now, I may be totally off-base here.
I may have completely misunderstood what I've heard from dozens and dozens of customers around the world. I may have not seen the latest Official Support Policy Update on their web site. Or something else that caused me to veer off in a totally incorrect and inaccurate direction.
So -- good people of Oracle -- please accept my humble apologies if this is the case, and do me the favor of correcting me if I'm wrong here.
I will gladly retract and/or amend any statement made here based on you setting the record straight in a public forum.
Frankly, I think it'd be good thing for you to do -- because an awful lot of your customers are getting the wrong impression!