Significant increases to Oracle’s Java pricing, including their recent move to employee based pricing, have led to customer concerns, and Azul has been a key beneficiary of this.
Oracle’s Java pricing changes, in stages from 2019 until very recently, have raised significant concerns with customers. Azul competes in the same space, and has benefited significantly from these concerns, as have their channel partners, some of whom had been Oracle partners for decades.
Azul has been in business since 2002, making a Java platform that has become an alternative to Oracle in that market, although its rise has been relatively recent. Sun of course originated Java, and it moved with Sun to Oracle with the Oracle acquisition of Sun in 2009
“The first time I worked with Java was in 1999, when I was an intern,” said Roy Wasse, co-founder of Dutch-based consultancy Open Value. “No one else in the company knew anything about it. Sun had done a good job with it as an open source product, and I was a fan boy of Sun. Oracle had a different reputation when they acquired it, and we were concerned. But they did do a good job. With Sun, we would wait a long time for new releases. Oracle increased the velocity to every five or six months, and that was a good decision for them.”
These early years were difficult for Azul, said Ed Hut, owner of Colorado-based Software Advisors.
“There were many companies in the Java World, but with open source, no one paid much attention to Java,” he said. “It was a development platform, and there were multiple tools out there.”
The good times lasted until 2019, when Oracle made its initial move from open source to pay for use.
“The good part ended when Oracle decided to charge for the use of Java since 2019,” Wasse said. “That didn’t go over well in the open source community, and so people began to look at alternatives. That’s when and why we contacted Azul. As a consulting company, you need to be independent. But many customers at that time didn’t understand that you could migrate from Oracle.”
“Oracle wants to get more revenue from its base customers,” Hut explained. “It’s a key factor of their sales strategy. This began when Oracle decided to start charging for Java, but the big changes took place last year, when they went to employee-based pricing. That really threw them. A 60,000-80,000 person company will now have 9 additional millions to support because of the cost being employee-based. That’s up from what had been a couple hundred in support. Customer support for this is across the board in terms of concern.”
Open Value changed their primary focus to Azul earlier, in 2020.
“Azul has a great offering, and no one else has same kind or breadth of solutions.” Wasse said.
Software Advisors changed their emphasis to Azul more recently, after Oracle raised their Java prices earlier this year, after having been an Oracle partner for over 30 years.
“When Oracle started all the licensing noise and pricing changes, Azul rose to the top out there as an alternative, because they share the same level of playing field with Java,” Hut said. Azul also has add-on products, but the core system is the same.” The result is that 84% of Azul’s business is now coming from new customers as a result of Oracle’s pricing changes
Hut also said that Azul has benefited from the decline in the quality of Oracle’s support.
“Oracle’s support has also become miserable,” he noted. “We just talked with a customer who had used Azul for a year, and he was refreshed by the support from Azul. The big risk for a customer moving from Oracle to Azul is the risk that a company takes moving from one vendor to another vendor. Still, while it’s not easy to move from one vendor to another in databases, this is completely different, moving from Oracle Java to Azul Java. That’s because the Open JDK is the same. I would guess 98% of migrations are absolutely seamless, because it’s the same code. And the nice thing about Azul is that they have additional products that customers can leverage.”
Wasse indicated that this risk element means that there is usually some degree of sell job required to reassure the customer.
“Some customers are still afraid that migrating will get them into trouble,” he said “There is a need to establish trust and for strong case to convince them that there will not be a problem. We emphasize that we have never had a problem in migration, and that the maximum time required for a migration is nine months, which is fast.”
Wasse said that while on paper, they will migrate customers from Azul or anyone else to Oracle, in reality, the migrations are one way.
“We offer a JDK migration service, but all have been away from Oracle, not to Oracle,” he stated. “Oracle JDK is 100% identical to Azul.”
Hut added that while there are still some use cases where Oracle makes the best sense for the customer, there aren’t a lot of them.
“For Java, we would now almost never recommend Oracle, but there are some cases where it makes sense, like the ebusiness suite, or financials, that have Java under it, because their licenses include Java for no additional money.”
Hut said that the transition has helped his company significantly from a channel perspective.
“As a partner of Azul, it has opened up quite a lot of opportunities for us,” he indicated. We had been locked into operations. Leveraging Azul has got us into IT operations from a development perspective and increased our value significantly.”