Diving into the Oracle-Microsoft cloud computing deal

Oracle's getting back to its roots, as SQL Azure bites its fingernails (or does it?) Find out why the Oracle-Microsoft deal matters.

The Microsoft-Oracle partnership hearkens back to the old days of what Oracle is all about, said one analyst on Monday. Meanwhile, SQL Server partners and DBAs say the move is neither a threat to SQL Server nor its cloud counterpart, SQL Azure.

Microsoft and Oracle announced on Monday that Oracle Database, Java, WebLogic and Linux will be supported on Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hinted as much at the Redwood Shores, Calif. Company's quarterly earnings call last Thursday.

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"It gets Oracle back to their baseline of providing their database to anyone who wants to run it," said Holger Mueller, VP and principal analyst at Monta Vista, Calif.-based Constellation Research. "I think it's a good move for both sides."

Mueller added that the move will give Windows Azure customers more deployment options, but said he's curious to see how applications on Azure will perform with Oracle and Microsoft cloud platforms coming together.

In statements, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Oracle President Mark Hurd both sought to spin the announcement as one that gives their respective customers more choice. That is how two SQL Server experts saw the news as well. Herve Roggero, owner of Blue Syntax Consulting and an enterprise cloud architect at AAJ Technologies, claimed that the partnership helps to support additional workloads in the cloud, and "that's what this is all about."

"I think it will help adoption and help companies take the cloud more seriously," he added.\

Meanwhile, Denny Cherry, owner and principal consultant for Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting, said the move is a "great way for Oracle people to move to the cloud without large capital investments in the platform."

Cloudy future for SQL Azure?
But what about SQL Azure, or as it is officially known now, Windows Azure SQL Database? There have been many concerns and comments about Microsoft's cloud database, in particular that SQL Azure lacks the functionality of SQL Server. Does putting Oracle Database in the cloud put SQL Azure at risk?

Mueller seems to think so, at least to some extent. He said that it looks like Microsoft has reached the end of the road with the scalability of SQL Server. While Microsoft execs said the partnership was about giving customers more choice, Mueller said "it really addresses scalability, performance and high TCO concerns for Microsoft."

Others, however, said that comparing Oracle Database to SQL Azure is like apples and oranges because they serve different workloads and rarely overlap. Cherry said that Oracle Database is a fully installed product on a virtual machine, while SQL Azure is a Platform-as-a-Service. Roggero agreed, saying that he sees SQL Azure as a cloud database that has some functionality stripped out but also removes maintenance concerns.

"It's not going to be as high performing as SQL Server or Oracle, but that's not the problem it solves," he said. "I still think it's the future for net new applications built for the cloud. Customers not in the business of running servers are a good fit for SQL Azure."

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