What Makes VMware On Oracle Cloud Different Than Its Rivals?

Oracle insists its first partnership with the private cloud leader is not a me-too play. Instead, both companies wanted to differentiate the service to give large enterprises more choice in adopting VMware Cloud Foundation in the public cloud.


Oracle is the latest large cloud provider to partner with VMware, but its joint hybrid service with the virtualization leader aims to not be more of the same.

Amazon entered uncharted territory more than two years ago with its VMware Cloud on AWS offering, and Microsoft and Google followed suit more recently.

Oracle wasn't looking for a copycat play. Instead, the tech giant built a unique offering that looks to appeal to large enterprises hoping to maintain greater control of their VMware environments as they move them into the public cloud, according to several Oracle executives.

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[Related: Ellison Looks To One-Up AWS With Oracle Cloud Flexibility, Alliances And Geographic Reach]

"We have a very important relationship with VMware," Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison said in a keynote at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

What distinguishes that alliance, Ellison said, is that Oracle is the only provider allowing customers to manage their own VMware stack, and do so using native VMware tools.

"The VMware stack you're running on-premises, you really can lift-and-shift it in tact to the Oracle Cloud," Ellison said.

Clay Magouyrk, Oracle's senior vice president of engineering for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, explained in a later OpenWorld session that the expanding slate of VMware services offered by the hyper-scalers are not all retreads of Amazon's groundbreaking work.

"If you look at what VMware has done with AWS, it's distinctively different than what it's done with Microsoft and Google," Magouyrk said. "And what we're doing with VMware is different again."

AWS offers a highly managed solution, he said, where VMware plays a more-direct role in supporting the customer relationship. Partners, on the other hand, are handed off more responsibility for management of VMware environments on Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Oracle, in contrast to all those competitors, is putting management more squarely in the hands of the customers themselves, rather than VMware or a third-party services provider.

"We're going after customers that want more flexibility and control of their VMware environment," Magouyrk said. "That's one of the reasons we've chosen a different model than VMware has done with different cloud providers."

That distinctive approach is partly possible because of design choices Oracle made when building its second-generation Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Leo Leung, Oracle's senior director for products and strategy, later explained to CRN.

Oracle is leveraging an innovative cloud architecture that implements isolated bare-metal servers surrounded by perimeter control systems and supported by Layer 2 networking, he said.

While those sound like (and are) highly technical distinctions, they enable Oracle to differentiate its VMware service to the satisfaction of both companies forging their first true alliance, Leung told CRN.

"VMware wanted to offer different models to their customers," he said. "They wanted to offer this experience at least once to their customers."

VMware on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, planned to become generally available in the fourth quarter of 2019, will allow customers to control versioning, patching, migrating, and just about all routine infrastructure management operations.

That's important to some of the world's largest enterprises, Leung said. Those companies often don’t want to run the latest releases of the compute, network and storage virtualization components that constitute VMware Cloud Foundation.

"They want to test everything first," Leung said of some large customers. Sometimes that means months or even a year before they're ready to deploy the most-current versions of vSphere, NSX networking and vSAN storage.

Oracle and VMware product designers and engineers worked for two years to develop the vision for their joint offering and build truly native support in Oracle’s cloud for VMware Cloud Foundation, he said.

Customers get the benefit of using existing tools and operational procedures for managing vSphere, NSX and vSAN in the cloud, or they can link on-premises VMware environments to OCI to integrate products like Oracle Analytics Cloud or Oracle Autonomous Database, Ellison said.

"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, from on-prem into the cloud with almost no change," Ellison said. "Very big deal. Very important announcement."