Cloud

Microsoft Azure is becoming a bigger cloud threat to Amazon, here's why

Microsoft remains second in the cloud race, but a new JP Morgan survey of CIOs gives it cause for optimism.

A recent CIO survey sent Oracle's shares sliding due to fears that (gasp!) CIOs really, really don't like Oracle. This, however, isn't the big news in JP Morgan's "highly predictive" survey of 154 CIOs. Rather than telling us what we already know about Oracle, the survey is mostly interesting for what it tells us about the future of cloud spending.

With CIOs naming Microsoft as their "most integral vendor" by a big margin, odds seem good that Microsoft Azure may be able to close the formidable lead currently held by CIOs' second cloud pick: Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It's not me, Oracle, it's you

It's no secret that Oracle doesn't have a lot of friends in enterprise IT. But then, it hasn't needed any. With dominant market share in databases, Oracle's gravitational force has been hard for enterprises to avoid as it has acquired applications and middleware to complement its database hegemony.

Yes, Oracle's market share has dropped each year since 2013, as Gartner data reveals, pummeled by cloud and open source databases. Such an exodus, however, has been slow.

"The greatest force in legacy database management systems is inertia," Gartner analyst Merv Adrian once told me. When a database sits at the center of a complex web of scores of other applications, middleware, and infrastructure, there's no such thing as a simple "rip and replace."

SEE: Cloud computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Despite this stranglehold on the CIO, workloads are moving. While cloud adoption was initially driven by developers, CIOs are finally catching up. As they look to move database workloads to public clouds, they're finding mega vendors every bit as formidable as Oracle was in the data center. Of particular interest, is which one they currently trust most: Microsoft.

Microsoft the MVP

According to JP Morgan's CIO survey, Oracle gets named the "most integral vendor" by a mere 2% of CIOs. Microsoft, by contrast, tops the list with 27% of CIOs naming it as their "must have" vendor. AWS, not even a glimmer in Andy Jassy's eye back when Oracle completely owned the enterprise, gets 12% of CIOs' hearts racing.

SEE: 60 ways to get the most value from your big data initiatives (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

That bodes well for AWS, of course, but it should give real hope to Microsoft. According to Gartner's latest IaaS Magic Quadrant, AWS continues to reign supreme but has stiff competition from Microsoft Azure. Oracle is an afterthought, and rapidly risks losing ground, as JP Morgan analyst Mark Murphy has detailed:

Oracle spending intentions have only looked lukewarm in our CIO survey work in the recent past, but the data takes a dive in the current survey. ... In our discussions, CIOs have clarified that they are migrating Oracle databases to Microsoft SQL Server, Amazon databases and PostgreSQL.

AWS remains the cloud vendor to beat, of course, but given Microsoft's historic strength and continued relevance with CIOs, it's not hard to imagine that many CIOs will feel most comfortable shifting workloads from Oracle's on-premises story to Microsoft's insistent hybrid story. I'm not suggesting that Azure currently sees most Oracle defections: A look at AWS database migrations and revenue growth would indicate that AWS is the biggest beneficiary of Oracle's lost luster with CIOs.

And yet it would be foolish to dismiss that 27% number, particularly in light of Murphy's comment that the JP Morgan CIO surveys have been "highly predictive" in the past. Microsoft won't move past AWS anytime soon, but with such a firm base of support with CIOs, it's likely we'll see it continue to strengthen as a viable #2.

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Image: iStockphoto/Dmitry Belyaev

About Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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