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Oracle VM 3.0 Puts Muscle Into VMware Fight

Third-generation Oracle VM server virtualization and management software emphasizes scalability, OVF support. But Oracle places a distant fourth in the marketshare race.

VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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Oracle on Tuesday unveiled the third generation of its Oracle VM server virtualization and management software, saying it was four times as scalable as VMware's. Its customer base so far appears reluctant to make Oracle its primary virtualization provider.

Oracle VM can generate a virtual machine with up to 128 CPUs, compared to VMware's 32 under vSphere 5, Adam Hawley, senior director of product marketing, said in an interview.

On another important measure, Oracle is matching VMware's Infrastructure 5 with a one terabyte limit on memory for a virtual machine.

Oracle VM 3.0 is better equipped to provide scalable database server virtualization with its higher CPU count, Monica Kumar, senior director of virtualization marketing, said in an interview. It's suitable for a variety of data center workloads and offers policy-based server provisioning and management capabilities. It also has centralized the network configuration management in Oracle VM Manager, the management console for Oracle VM virtual machines.

Oracle VM 3.0 is based on the open source Xen hypervisor and gets many of its new management features from Virtual Iron’s virtualization management suite. Oracle acquired Virtual Iron in 2009.

But Oracle customers appear slow to adopt Oracle VM. It repeatedly shows up a distant fourth behind VMware, Citrix Systems, and Microsoft in terms of market share. That's a weak showing for a product backed by a major vendor that's available for free download. Oracle VM tends to narrowly lead Red Hat and its KVM-based virtualization software, a late comer to the field but one that has picked up support from the open source programming community. The vitality of that community is sometimes an indicator of viability for a technology that it favors. Xen at one time was the open source hypervisor of choice.

In addition, Oracle is one of the companies that has been reluctant to support its database and other products inside other vendors' virtual machines. For customers that have already adopted VMware or Citrix, that's a warning sign that Oracle VM may come with strings attached.

An Oracle move in the opposite direction came with the 3.0 release. It supports OVF or open virtualization format, an import format that allows a virtual machine to be accepted and restructured to run under a different hypervisor. Oracle support means the virtual machines of other vendors, including VMware's, may now run under Oracle VM. OVF is a standard established by DMTF, the former Distributed Management Task Force, an independent standards body.

Oracle is putting more marketing muscle behind Oracle VM and staged a well-publicized webinar with Wim Coekaerts, senior vice president of Oracle Linux and virtualization. Coekaerts is a contributor to the Linux kernel and Oracle's marquee representative to the independent programmer community.

A key added feature that will appeal to those who have not adopted VMware is Oracle VM Storage Connect, a plug-in API that allows users of Oracle VM Manager to configure storage to be used with a virtual machine through various storage management vendors. VMware requires its own storage file system to overlay storage volumes in order to ensure the live migration or the "vMotion-ing" of its virtual machines. That move has prompted storage vendors with their own storage file systems to try to work with other virtualization vendors.

Fujitsu, Hitachi Data Systems, and NetApp are among those enlisted to provide access to their systems through Storage Connect. Oracle's own Pillar Axiom SAN storage system and Sun ZFS Storage Appliance also work through the new API.

Oracle also expanded the number of prepared templates or pre-configured virtual machine images that are ready to be run and able to work with other Oracle software. They include an Oracle VM preconfigured as an Oracle database server, an Oracle WebLogic Server or servers for other Oracle middleware, and various Oracle applications. In all, there are 90 templates available, Hawley said.

Oracle VM 3.0 is available for free download, with commercial technical support contracts available on a subscription basis based on the number of Oracle VM hosts activated.

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