Microsoft's big draw for Oracle on Azure: Simplified licensing

Rent Windows Server instances on Azure and get Oracle's database offerings too -- but for how much?

Two notorious rivals -- Oracle and Microsoft -- stood on the same stage together Tuesday at Oracle OpenWorld to pool their resources for a new enterprise cloud deal. Many of Oracle's biggest products, from Java to databases to Oracle Linux offerings, are all now supported not only on Windows Server Hyper-V but also on Windows Azure.

The most vital question on the lips of many longtime customers for both companies, though, won't be one of application compatibility or migration. It'll be about licensing for Oracle's products.

At its core, the Oracle/Microsoft deal is impressive. Windows Azure users can now use Oracle Database, Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Linux, Oracle Solaris, and Java. All products are not only allowed but directly supported by Microsoft as well. Users can make use of them either by setting up prepackaged machine instances in Azure or by migrating their own licensed Oracle products into Microsoft's cloud.

Here's the catch: Not all Oracle products in Azure have licensing costs rolled into the package. Licenses for Oracle Linux, for instance, have to be purchased by the customer. On the other hand, licenses for Oracle Database on Windows can be included as part of the cost of renting an Azure instance.

When asked about pricing and licensing in an interview with Neowin, Steven Martin, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Azure, noted that the costs of renting licensing for Oracle products from Microsoft in Azure "has not yet been finalized."

Oracle's databases have typically had some of the most onerous licensing costs of any product in their class, to the point where Microsoft touted SQL Server's pricing scheme as an alternative to Oracle's sliding-scale per-socket licensing. Today Oracle's pricing structure is a little less complicated but no less overwhelming: A single processor licensing for Oracle Database Enterprise Edition is $47,500. Microsoft's current pricing for SQL Server 2012 is based on a somewhat complex "core factor."

Virtualization has complicated the licensing picture all the more. Consequently, one way to simplify the costs of server products -- Microsoft's included -- is to obtain them as a pre-licensed part of a machine image. Amazon AWS instances of Microsoft Windows Server with the non-Express edition of SQL Server installed comes at a slight per-hour premium over the "bare" version of Windows Server.

The very construction of Windows Azure is intended to make all server products -- Oracle's included -- a little less difficult to implement and price out. But one of the features most highly touted by Microsoft in its OpenWorld demo, Azure AutoScale, could have further implications for Oracle licensing. AutoScale adds instances on the fly to one's pool of Azure machines based on demand.

While Oracle's products are supported in AutoScale, there might be any number of ways to slice the licensing pie in such a scenario. Would it make more sense to charge for the average number of instances used over the course of a month, or for the maximum? Knowing Microsoft, it might tend toward the former; knowing Oracle, the latter.

This story, "Microsoft's big draw for Oracle on Azure: Simplified licensing," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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