In a recent change to its long-standing policy, Oracle Corp. will now support its customers running Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) software on VMware platforms in certain circumstances.

This positive move for customers was announced in a document titled “Support Position for Oracle Products Running on VMware Virtualized Environments,” which Oracle posted on its support web page on November 8. You can read the specifics of the new policy there.

Basically, Oracle will now accept service requests (Srs) for Oracle RAC and later releases running on VMware-based virtual servers, provided the customer can demonstrate that VMware is not the source of the problem. Otherwise, “…the customer will be referred to VMware for support.”

Oracle hasn’t gone so far as to certify any of its products on VMware, but it will provide support for issues that “… are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not to be as a result of running on VMware.”

Oracle RAC is a single database instance deployed across a cluster of Intel X86 servers. For better scalability and fault tolerance, RAC offers load balancing and high availability… at a significant extra cost versus Oracle’s Standard Edition (SE) database. RAC is included with Oracle SE but the cluster hardware is limited to two CPU cores. To run your database across more than two cores, you need to pay for RAC on top of the more expensive Oracle Enterprise Edition (EE) software.

What this means

What prompted this move on Oracle’s part? Ongoing customer pressure. Businesses of all sizes want the advantages of virtualized Oracle databases, like reduced hardware costs, reduced power, rack space and cooling costs, and faster database server provisioning.

Oracle had previously asserted that there were “technical restrictions” when running Oracle RAC on VMWare, and explicitly excluded support. This hindered many organizations – especially midsized businesses, which may not have database expertise in-house – from virtualizing their Oracle databases.

But the fact is that Oracle DBMS runs well in a virtual machine. Hundreds of organizations run Oracle on VMWare every day, and it works fine.

If your business has held back on database virtualization because “Oracle doesn’t support VMware,” you might want to reconsider that decision in light of this announcement.

I invite you to comment on how the availability of support from Oracle might change how you deploy your Oracle databases. Did the explicit lack of support hold you back before, and how quickly will you move to increase your virtual footprint now that limited support is available from Oracle?