OpenWorld: VMware says Oracle licensing, not support, is the issue

Is it spin, a misunderstanding or something else at this point?

Companies can continue to expect support from Oracle Corp. if they run its software on top of VMware Inc.'s virtualization technology, despite Oracle statements to the contrary.

The problem, VMware says, isn't Oracle's apparent pulling of support for its applications on virtualization platforms other than the vendor's own Oracle VM, which it announced on Monday at its OpenWorld 2007 conference, but its unwillingness to reform its software licensing policies. That could force Oracle customers who adopt virtualization software from other vendors to pay many times more than they would if they bought Oracle VM, VMware contends.

"Customers are not trying to pay less -- they just don't want to pay eight or ten times more," Brian Byun, vice president of global partners and solutions at VMware, said in an interview on Thursday. "That's the larger issue at hand."

For instance, a company that runs an Oracle database in a VMware virtual machine and wishes to port that single instance from one physical server to another would technically be forced to buy an additional Oracle license for each physical server used, Byun said. Or if an application in a VM is apportioned to use only 1 out of 4 CPUs in a server, the company would still have to buy a license for the entire server.

"That doesn't make sense," he said.

Vendors such as SAP AG, BEA Systems Inc. and IBM have adapted their software licensing policies to make them more virtualization-friendly, according to Byun. Even Microsoft Corp., which VMware called out earlier this year for allegedly using its operating systems dominance to win virtualization business, "has made some positive moves," he said. "They are halfway there."

By comparison, Oracle remains a laggard, Byun claimed.

On Oracle's apparent pulling of support of its applications running on competing virtualization platforms, Byun argued that nothing has changed.

Since 2006, Oracle has supported most of its applications (including its database) running on top of VMware, he said, with "hundreds of customers" doing just that.

As of Thursday, that was still officially the case, he said, pointing to Metalink Note 249212.1 at Oracle's support Web site (registration required), which he said is Oracle's official statement concerning support for VMware.

Byun also pointed to comments by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison during a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday (see 15:01 in Oracle Webcast). In response to a question from a Bear, Stearns & Co. analyst over whether Oracle customers would get support on VMware, Ellison replied, "Essentially, yes."

"There's been some aggressive marketing spin and black-and-white statements made by Oracle," Byun said. While he acknowledged that Oracle isn't certifying its applications for VMware, support should continue to be quite "usable," according to Byun.

"I think Oracle will inevitably will have to support us more, because the number of Oracle/VMware customers is only increasing," he said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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