As public clouds mature, a curious thing has started to happen.
In some ways, at the architecture level, public clouds are starting to look a lot like the on-premises estates most enterprises have today: multiple vendors and platforms that have to be integrated, managed and secured to work together. Here’s why:
It's true public cloud's growth has been driven by born-in-the-cloud applications and the companies behind them. But as enterprises, in particular public sector ones, move to the cloud, their more complex and demanding requirements translate to a more complex application and infrastructure stack that can work among on-premises, cloud-adjacent off-premises, and in the public cloud.
And enterprises historically have integrated best-of-breed products from different vendors together, e.g., running Microsoft applications on Oracle database, or using Microsoft Active Directory for identity management and VMware for virtualization. Vendors expect this in an open systems world, and generally (not always!) work to "play nice" with the leading best-of-breed products.
The recently announced cloud alliance between Microsoft and Oracle, a first of its kind in the industry, is really just a reflection of this core reality. And it's not surprising that two dominant vendors from the on-premises world understand this, whereas a public-cloud-only vendor like AWS is struggling with multi-cloud deployments.
In this sense, AWS is out-of-step with companies that run both on-premises and in the cloud (and by the way, that's almost all of them). It recently insisted that partners remove any mention of other cloud providers or use terms like "multi-cloud", "cross cloud", "any cloud", or "any other language the implies designing or supporting more than one cloud provider."
But most customers run workloads in multiple public clouds, on-premises, and off-premise in co-locations like Equinix that are tightly networked with cloud providers and their customers private networks. What these customers want is integrated identity management, networking, and support that works seamlessly between them. And that's precisely what this agreement gives them for Oracle and Microsoft's public clouds.
If this agreement surprised you, your view of how public clouds are built might be a little dated. Public clouds today are not distinct physical entities separated by large physical distances and latencies: all public clouds, including the leading ones, leverage shared cloud-adjacent colocation facilities from companies like Equinix to build their networks and physical infrastructure.
What Oracle and Microsoft have done is to integrate the networking, security and support components of their respective clouds so that consuming Oracle cloud from Microsoft's and vice-versa is seamless and transparent. Shared cloud-adjacent data centers makes this straightforward. In turn, this makes migrating on-premises applications and infrastructure leveraging both vendor's products (e.g., E-Business suite running on Microsoft Windows Server, or a .Net app running on the Oracle database) far easier than completely porting to one cloud or the other, because it's not necessary to swap out any components already integrated together on-premises.
And building on this close partnership with Microsoft, Oracle and VMware announced at Oracle Open World 2019 that VMware's complete virtualization stack will be made available in OCI, Oracle's public cloud, and will integrate seamlessly with VMware's on-premises management tools to support hybrid clouds. In addition, the two companies will provide better support when their products are deployed together.
As the boundaries among public cloud, on-premises and off-premise cloud-adjacent infrastructure and applications blurs in our multi-cloud world, customers will expect cloud providers to follow Oracle and Microsoft's lead and make that experience both seamless and rewarding.