JameskobielusBy James Kobielus

Today at its OpenWorld conference, Oracle announced that customers can use Amazon Web Services to run Oracle’s database and middleware software, and to backup a high volume of data to Amazon’s cloud-based services.

Specifically, Oracle announced that customers can license Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Enterprise Manager, and Oracle Enterprise Linux to run in Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) environment. Just as important, Oracle customers can use their existing software licenses on Amazon EC2 with no additional license fees.

This is much more than just a licensing move — Oracle has provided the tooling and support to make cloud-based virtualization of DBMS and DW deployments an attractive option for Information & Knowledge Management (I&KM) professionals. For starters, Oracle is providing free Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) that enable its software to be quickly deployed into virtual machines on Amazon’s cloud. Also, Oracle has adapted its tape-backup tool to support on-demand high-volume data backup and recovery into and out of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

Oracle/Amazon’s move provides a smoother on-ramp to the cloud for existing Oracle customers. By allowing database and middleware licenses — and data — to be moved to the Amazon cloud without incurring additional Oracle license fees, it puts cloud-based hosting within easy reach of Oracle’s global customer base. Of course, it remains to be seen how Amazon will charge to host Oracle applications and databases in EC2 or to backup large data sets to S3. Given the continuing decline in the cost of scalable, premises-based grid storage options, and the reluctance by some customers to persist or backup sensitive data to any external cloud, some Oracle Database customers may be reluctant to use Amazon’s cloud services.

Coming from the leading DBMS and DW solution provider, the announcement sets the stage for further virtualization of all leading database, data warehousing, and storage vendors’ product stacks. Oracle has been aggressive about moving its application and middleware portfolio into the cloud. So far, Oracle is the only one of the leading DBMS/DW vendors that has moved its relational database to Amazon, so it can be considered a first-mover in that regard.

It’s not clear whether this arrangement is exclusive to Amazon. Expect Oracle to offer equivalent portability of its database and middleware licensees to other third-party partner-provided cloud services in the near future. Also, expect to see other DBMS/DW vendors follow suit over the coming 1-2 years, allowing customers to move their DBMS/DW software licenses so they can be hosted on a cloud-based platforms.

Right now, only Microsoft has made any effort to put its DBMS in the cloud — through the still-developing SQL Server Data Services.

Also up in the air is whether/when any of the other leading DBMS/DW vendors will allow their stacks to run on third-party cloud services. If its DW appliance strategy is any guide, Microsoft may go that partner-friendly route into the cloud. For one thing, it has already engaged HP and Dell as hardware partners to build SQL Server appliances. For another, DATAllegro, which Microsoft recently acquired, has been primarily geared to running its DW appliance on partner hardware.

For their part, IBM and Teradata have taken pains to provide completely self-contained DBMS/DW product stacks of their own. One suspects that, as they go to the cloud, both vendors will do so though their own hosted offerings.

But the DW industry’s move into the cloud is taking place so quickly that it’s anybody’s guess. Microsoft, Teradata, and IBM hold their respective conferences in the coming month. Let’s see what surprises they have in store for us.