Microsoft and Oracle headquarters
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On June 5, Microsoft and Oracle announced a cloud interoperability partnership which will allow customers of both companies to migrate and run mission-critical enterprise workloads across Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud. The result is enterprises can now seamlessly connect Azure services, like Analytics and AI, to Oracle Cloud services, like Autonomous Database.

By enabling customers to run one part of a workload within Azure and another part of the same workload within the Oracle cloud, the partnership aims to provide an optimized, best-of-both-cloud experience. Or as the companies put it in a statement, taken together, Azure and Oracle Cloud offer customers a one-stop shop for all the cloud services and applications they need to run their entire business.

Oracle Meets Microsoft in the Cloud

Oracle and Microsoft are partnering to create a cloud-based version of a relationship that Oracle has built on-premises for a long time. Oracle has long been the default enterprise database of choice. As Oracle moves to the cloud and brings its Autonomous Database with it, Oracle wants to make it easier for customers using Microsoft’s business intelligence and artificial intelligence services to do so with Oracle.

“This is an admission on Oracle’s part that it is better to get half a loaf of enterprise services than none as they build out Oracle Cloud and start making a serious enterprise push,” Hyoun Park, CEO and principal analyst at Amalgam Insights explained.

Fundamentally, he said, this agreement makes it easier for enterprises to either have a backup cloud if they are starting with Azure or Oracle or to split up workloads to give specific developer teams their cloud of choice, as data architects, application developers and enterprise architects may all have their specific preferences.

By having a joint offering, Oracle and Microsoft have the opportunity to remove a lot of the nitty-gritty work of service orders, service mapping, networking, data transfer, governance and business continuity work that would otherwise be necessary to manage application stacks across workloads.

Related Article: It's Cloud or Bust for Oracle

Moving to a Hybrid, Multi-Cloud World

These kind of new partnerships also offer CIOs optimal choices for each application and allow them to use cloud resources, said Todd Matters, chief architect and co-founder of RackWare. This partnership in particular signifies a move to a true hybrid or multi-cloud world, he continued. The new options give customers the greatest level of choice, allowing them to explore options that meet their cost, performance and availability needs.

“For a while, cloud environments were an all-or-nothing proposition. What we are seeing with announcements such as the Microsoft-Oracle alliance, is the increased flexibility to choose best-of-breed options for running IT in the cloud,” he said. “It's all about choice and not having to bet on one vendor.”

The Microsoft-Oracle alliance is great for publicity, but it's important for enterprise to avoid getting locked into any particular cloud or service, even when using multiple providers. Availing oneself of multiple clouds may end up making lock-in constraints even more difficult to unwind.

Related Article: Hybrid Cloud: Bringing the Best of Both Worlds to the Enterprise

Feeding Into Microsoft's Big Cloud Picture

From a wider perspective, Chris Smith, VP of cloud architecture at Unitas Global said that with this partnership, CIOs should be paying the most attention to what Microsoft is doing overall.

He noted that in the past three months or so, it has partnered with Adobe, Sony, SAP and now Oracle. It is important to acknowledge how Microsoft is joining the other big players and how it is continuing to grow its market share in cloud, he continued. In this particular partnership, Microsoft and Oracle are enabling customers to be able to utilize the best of both providers.

In the past, AWS had major databases that put a lot of pressure on Microsoft SQL, which is all that Microsoft had at the time. Even though Azure was supporting other databases, Microsoft’s strongest play was in SQL. “A partnership with Oracle compounds what Microsoft brings to the table in Azure by highlighting its ability to support SQL and Oracle,” he said.

In turn, the partnership will help Oracle, whose cloud play is smaller than Microsoft, AWS and Google, build up its customer's cloud adoption strategy. 

Related Article: What Ignite 2018 Signaled for Microsoft and the Future of the Cloud Wars

Integration, Assimilation, Execution

Initially, as with all such alliances, the most important consideration will be the process of integration, assimilation and execution. For businesses moving mission-critical applications and workloads to the Microsoft-Oracle connected cloud, it will have to work with high levels of reliability, availability, security and the ability to manage and optimize. That assurance will be one of the most significant considerations during the early stages of the alliance.

The alliance confirms the business case and strategy of running legacy Oracle applications in third party public cloud as an alternative to maintaining on-premises data centers or renewal of a co-location hosting contract, Bill Saltys, SVP of alliances at Apps Associates, an Oracle-focused migration and managed services provider.

For organizations that have invested heavily in their Oracle application footprint and are not yet ready to or able to support a business case for a SaaS application implementation, the approach is compelling. Apps Associates has seen this first-hand, working with customers to deliver migration and management services for Oracle environments to the AWS cloud.

Saltys noted that in many ways, the partnership eliminates a level of confusion for Oracle customers about use of non-Oracle IaaS. In his practice he has heard many questions from customers about the viability and compliance of running their Oracle environment in a third party public cloud. This alliance minimizes, if not eliminates, those questions and fears, he continued.

Related Article: What Is Hybrid Cloud Computing?

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

At the moment, Oracle Cloud is a minority player in the hyperscale cloud realm, but now it's committed to taking a larger role in the market and Oracle is making investments and effort to achieve this goal. The alliance further proves Oracle is willing to partner more broadly to better service its customers in today's hybrid, multi-cloud world, said Blair Hanley Frank, principal analyst at ISG.

The move will also impact vendor choices for enterprises. The new deal will make it easier to adopt Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud together, which may drive organizations to adopt the Oracle Autonomous Database, which currently only runs on Oracle Cloud hardware.

One caveat: CIOs will have to watch out for availability of these services from a geographic perspective. The current direct connection between data centers is only available for Azure US East and Oracle's Ashburn data center. The companies plan to expand to other regions in the future, though details are sparse about where or when. For now, enterprises with specific geographic requirements should keep their eyes peeled.

This merger is a perfect example of unlikely entities coming together. “Previously, there were two dogs in the database fight: Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle,” said Kris Lahiri, co-founder and chief security officer at Egnyte. This alliance appears to show that the cloud is an incredible leveler between warring parties. Customers are going to be quick to adopt this hybrid model, where they can use the analytics tools of their choice in Azure and then benefit from Oracle’s superior database capabilities, he said.

The biggest takeaway of this partnership is the advancement of the open ecosystem concept. Customers are free to run workloads, applications and functions where and how best suits their needs. Vendors may want to capture all of a customer's business, but they are beginning to recognize that ultimately serving the customer is the best way to maximize their share over time.