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Guest post by Carl Olofson, Research Vice President, Data Management Software,IDC

For decades, enterprises have built their businesses using applications running on Windows with databases in Oracle Database. They have been seeking to migrate their operations to Microsoft Azure, but until recently, their database options were limited. They could either deploy Oracle Database on Azure as a self-managed instance in a virtual machine, or switch to another RDBMS. For most, switching to another RDBMS is a non-starter. Over the last few years, Oracle Database has added exciting new features for scalability, performance, and impressive levels of automation, including Oracle Autonomous Database and the Oracle Exadata Database Service. These Oracle Database cloud configurations represent superior and more cost-effective options than the self-managed VM option on Azure. The problem is that these only run on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

This issue is particularly acute for users of Oracle Exadata Cloud@Customer, who have enjoyed those advanced, OCI-based Oracle Database services in their datacenter, directly attached to their Microsoft Windows applications. Moving their applications to Azure would mean giving up those advanced services. Or would it?

In 2019, Oracle and Microsoft introduced the Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure, which enabled a high-speed connection of Oracle Database on OCI to Microsoft Azure applications, so those applications could interact with the database at the speed of a local system, and without egress or ingress charges. However, manual effort and technical expertise are still required in both environments to set up and manage the interconnect between applications and the database. Also, management of applications would need to be done on Azure while management of Oracle databases would need to be done on OCI using a very different user interface. So, it worked, but the user experience was awkward, to say the least.

A Comprehensive and Seamless Service

In July 2022, Oracle and Microsoft announced a new interconnect service, called Oracle Database Service for Microsoft Azure, which is much more comprehensive than the prior offering. With this new service, Oracle Database appears on Azure as a native database service and can be managed through an Azure native user interface. The connection is fairly automatic, requiring no special technical expertise. To the Azure user, the look and feel of the service makes it seem as if the database is local to the application. In many ways, this service delivers what users really want: the best possible platform for each element of their application system provided in a seamless manner.

The service operates across a private interconnect that, according to Oracle, delivers sub-two millisecond latency and a full OCI-based database experience in terms of speed, availability, and scalability (both in IOPS power and database size) with automated identity management, networking, and monitoring integration with Azure. Users can deploy the interconnect service for a Base Database Service, Exadata Database Service, or full Autonomous Database Service, all seamlessly integrated with the Azure user experience. These capabilities make it easier for developers to build applications that take advantage of the best offerings of the two clouds and for operations teams to manage them. A similar capability for MySQL HeatWave is planned for the near future.

There is no charge for the Oracle Database Service for Microsoft Azure or for data egress or ingress when moving data between OCI and Azure. Users pay only for the other Azure or Oracle services they consume, such as Azure Synapse or Oracle Autonomous Database. Azure and OCI accounts are linked and enable full observability from either vantage point. Also, Microsoft and Oracle have established a single support model for this service, with one service ticket applying to both clouds for smooth joint issue resolution.

The physical connection between OCI and Azure is already established for 12 OCI and Azure cloud regions around the world, and more are coming online. Hundreds of customers are already using the interconnect, with several providing positive comments about the new service during its launch.

A New Approach to Cloud Services

This exciting development points to a new way of thinking about and using cloud services. Since the beginning, cloud service platforms have been built like castles, with thick walls and alligator-laden moats. You want to move data to another cloud? Sure, but it will cost you dearly. Users have had to make Solomonic choices regarding the database, analytics, integration, and application services they used based on which cloud platform offers most of what they want while compromising on the rest.

At IDC, we have been expecting and hoping for another mode of operation to emerge. The vision of the cloud was that of having access to virtualized, fungible resources that can be accessed and deployed without regard for their underlying details. This vision has been true, but only on a cloud platform-by-platform basis.

The cooperative agreement between Microsoft and Oracle indicates that there is another way. By connecting Oracle database services with applications on Microsoft Azure in a seamless way that is transparently effortless to the user, these firms are taking a giant step toward offering their users the ability to choose the best services for the job at hand, link them together, and run them as a singular system, regardless of the cloud platform upon which they happen to physically reside.

We hope to see agreements like this extended to other services and include other cloud platforms. We hope to see a time when users can link applications, databases, integration services, streaming services, analytic systems, and any other cloud-based services to each other, regardless of the cloud platforms involved. And we look forward to the day when seamless interoperation, easy to use connectivity, management, and unified monitoring capabilities that dispense with complicated, tech expert-oriented setup operations and the dreaded egress fees become the norm.

A Big Win for Users

The business of the cloud has seemed to be focused on "let the best cloud platform win." However, at this time no single cloud platform offers everything users want from basic services to databases, development tools and applications. Oracle and Microsoft have shown that users, indeed, can have a choice to use the best services across their two clouds. With the ability to connect and integrate services, such as Azure applications and Oracle Database on OCI, this new approach makes the users the real winners.

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