Oracle to VMware users: We still support you, kind of

Company attempts to clear up lingering virtualization confusion

Oracle attempted to clarify its support policy for customers running non-Oracle virtualization platforms, after conflicting statements during its Oracle OpenWorld conference earlier this month left users scratching their heads.

In an e-mailed response late last week to an inquiry from Computerworld, Oracle said there is "no change" to its support policy for customers running Oracle applications under virtualization from VMware -- primarily because they were never guaranteed full support in the first place.

"Oracle has not certified any Oracle software on VMware virtualized environments," the company said in a statement. Thus, "Oracle support will assist customers running Oracle software on VMware in the following manner: Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS without virtualization, or can be demonstrated not to be as a result of running VMware. If a problem is a known Oracle issue, Oracle support will recommend the appropriate solution on the native OS without virtualization. If that solution does not work in the VMware virtualized environment, the customer will be referred to VMware for support."

In other words, customers can expect Oracle's help only if they can prove that a bug is totally unrelated to the virtualization platform they are using.

Oracle's statement did not name other virtualization platforms, such as Citrix Systems Inc.'s Xen (which is also offered by Linux providers Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.) or Virtual Server from Microsoft Corp. But Oracle executives said during OpenWorld that it would not support its applications running under virtualization.

The one exception, of course, is when a customer is running Oracle software under Oracle's own virtualization, which it announced at OpenWorld. Those customers can expect full support from Oracle.

Microsoft appeared to be taking a step in the other direction when it announced that it would work with third-party virtualization vendors to support mutual customers. However, Microsoft is, for now, only offering to tackle problems arising from virtualizing Windows Server -- not any of its actual server applications, such as SQL Server or Dynamics CRM.

That means for most customers, Microsoft's support for alternative virtualization platforms won't, in effect, be much better than Oracle's, said Amy Konary, an analyst at IDC.

Meanwhile, VMware continues to argue that customers needn't worry.

"Oracle has been responsive [to] and supportive of customers who are running Oracle products in VMware environments," said Parag Patel, vice president for alliances at VMware, in an e-mail on Monday. "We haven't seen many referrals from Oracle (even though Oracle's official policy mentions sending referrals to VMware), which seems to indicate that Oracle is engaging with our mutual customers."

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, agrees.

"Like Microsoft, Oracle doesn't especially like to play in other children's sandboxes, but in practice, it does what it has to for important customers. Even if it does so reluctantly," he wrote in an e-mail Monday. "This isn't exactly nice behavior. But it's hard to argue that it's hurt them to any significant degree."

For one, virtualization is today still mostly employed for low-hanging fruit such as server consolidation of "less resource-hungry apps," Haff said. Oracle's applications and database, by contrast, typically require heavy resources and/or span across multiple servers, making them less attractive targets for server consolidation.

Also, Haff agreed with VMware's contention that Oracle's licenses don't make virtualization of its software economically attractive.

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