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Oracle and Microsoft expand OCI, Azure cloud connections

The multi-cloud capabilities offered by Oracle and Microsoft are now available in the U.K. via a link between the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Azure platforms.

Oracle and Microsoft have expanded the cloud computing partnership they formed in June, adding a direct connection between their cloud data centers in London to the initial one that was set up in a pair of Virginia facilities.

The Oracle-Microsoft partnership brings interoperability between cloud systems that's designed to make it easier for customers to run enterprise workloads across the Oracle and Microsoft Azure clouds. Rather than maintain a complete focus on convincing users that their own cloud is better than the other, the two vendors have made it possible to use their respective technologies in a multi-cloud environment.

So, is this the beginning of a unified cloud ecosystem that eventually will also include seamless connections to the AWS and Google platforms? Don't bet your IT budget on that scenario playing out anytime soon.

"Our focus is on working with Microsoft, and there are a lot of reasons for that. We can do a lot to make common applications that require both Oracle and Microsoft [technologies] work very well," said Leo Leung, senior director of products and strategy for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. OCI, Oracle's IaaS platform, is now tied to Azure in the Virginia and London computing regions.

"The overlap with our customers is very high, and that's not the case with any other vendor," Leung continued. "We want to give those customers options in the cloud with as little pain as possible." He added that the direct interconnect breaks down the walls between the two cloud platforms, "so it feels like one" to users.

Connecting Oracle and Azure cloud services

In practical terms, the arrangement means enterprises can connect Azure and Oracle Cloud services to one another -- for example, integrating Azure Machine Learning and other Microsoft analytics and AI services with Oracle's Autonomous Database system. Different parts of an application workload can run in each cloud.

To keep setup and management complexity to a minimum, Oracle and Microsoft also offer a unified single sign-on feature, common identity controls for user access and automated resource provisioning across the two cloud platforms.

Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research in San Francisco, thinks the partnership was driven by the realization that customers want a variety of deployment choices in the cloud -- and that OCI was lagging behind AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform in the IaaS market.

Oracle was hoping to dominate in the cloud, but it hasn't worked out that way.
Maribel LopezFounder and principal analyst, Lopez Research

"Oracle was hoping to dominate in the cloud, but it hasn't worked out that way," she said. "Companies are using more than one cloud provider, and the market has evolved."

Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif., agreed that it makes sense for Oracle and Microsoft to work together so the customers they have in common can use either company's cloud services as they see fit. The potential benefits of that flexibility are biggest for users on the Oracle side, he noted via email.

"The arrangement should be particularly helpful to Oracle's global clients since the company's cloud offerings and services are nowhere near as varied, mature and widely available as Microsoft Azure," King said. But the deal isn't just one-sided, he added -- the integration with Oracle's database software "should help ingrain Azure more deeply into the enterprise data centers that Microsoft covets."

Physical closeness eases cloud connectivity

Geography also comes into play in making the connections between the two clouds feasible. The relative proximity of the data centers in Virginia minimizes performance issues, according to Leung.

"It's still all about the speed of light," he said. "We each have a cloud center there, so the latency is close to a millisecond, which works. You couldn't do this if the servers were on the east and west coasts."

Details on the Oracle-Microsoft cloud partnership
What the partnership between Oracle and Microsoft includes

The same applies with the London data centers. The addition of the interconnect between the two facilities there was announced in advance of Oracle's annual OpenWorld user conference later this month in San Francisco, where the Oracle-Microsoft deal and the overall Oracle cloud strategy are both expected to be big discussion topics.

Vinay Kumar, Oracle's vice president of product management for OCI, said in an Aug. 28 blog post that London is one of the most active Oracle Cloud regions worldwide. Joint customers of Oracle and Microsoft in the U.K. can now "create their ideal combination of services from each cloud, matching each part of their workload inventory to the optimal cloud for each, without added complexity or settling for an inferior environment for parts of what they run," Kumar wrote.

Leung said the multi-cloud capabilities enabled by the partnership should also help Oracle users move more quickly to migrate on-premises systems to the cloud.

"This is what people are used to in the on-prem world -- a lot of mixed vendors or overlap in the data center," he said. "The funny thing about the cloud is that in many ways it's created more islands. There's a lot of proprietary technology that is exclusive to one cloud vendor."

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