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8/20/2010
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Oracle Intros Full Enterprise Virtualization Option

Executives tout advantages over VMWare's approach, including efficiency, ability to build virtual appliances out of Oracle products.




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Oracle's chief corporate architect says the firm's approach to virtualization will yield greater returns for customers than VMware's. Oracle's listing of its Oracle VM hypervisor states that it is "three times more efficient than any other server virtualization product."

"A point solution (from VMware) makes the environment more complex," said Edward Screven, chief architect, in an interview. "Because of our expertise in database, middleware, and applications, we have the means to manage the environment much more effectively," he added.

The message was reinforced in an Aug. 19 webinar, "Discover How Oracle's Virtualization Delivers More Value Than VMware," featuring Screven and executive VP of systems John Fowler. A questioner asked during the webinar whether Oracle products will one day be distributed as virtual appliances -- that is, as a combination of operating system and application in a portable virtual machine file format. The answer was, yes, Oracle is already doing that.

"Today we have Oracle VM Templates as pre-built, ready to run VMs containing Oracle products pre-installed and pre-configured. This will continue to be one of the options for installation of Oracle products as the fastest way to get up and running," was the answer.

It's an audacious approach from a company whose expanding grip on core data center functions -- database, middleware, the Java language, Java virtual machine, and applications -- is viewed with concern in some quarters. A blog by Gartner Group analyst Chris Wolf a year ago suggested that Oracle was stalling technical support for its products running in other vendors' virtual machines until it could get its own virtualization products out.

For that matter, Oracle is still a little ways off from getting its next generation hypervisor product out the door. An update to the Oracle VM, Version 3.0, is now slated for release in beta in December and will include technology from Oracle's Virtual Iron acquisition last year. Oracle VM 3.0 is expected to be more on a par with VMware's ESX Server than the 2.0 releases. Among other things, it will include a storage system discovery API, Oracle Storage Connect; better integration with network management systems; a more dynamic user interface; and better dynamic resource scheduling.

"Our expertise in building and serving complex applications has affected the choices we made" for Oracle VM, he said. "It's essential that the virtualization overhead have no performance impact, or as little as possible."

"VMware has a good virtualization product but it's very narrow," said Screven. Oracle can tie virtualization to other parts of the software infrastructure and extract more value from them, he said.

Oracle provides Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder, a tool that can be used to build a virtual appliance. A virtual appliance might start with Oracle's Unbreakable Linux as the operating system and combine it with an application and middleware, packaging the combination in a virtual machine file format ready to run under Oracle VM. The assembly can include connections to the Oracle database server, Web server, or application server and be stored on disk as a re-useable package.

"Virtualization needs to be integrated with the other parts of the software infrastructure," noted Screven. "We want to integrate everything here in our Oracle factory."

Last week Oracle announced it was taking Sun Microsystems' approach to client virtualization and offering its own virtual desktop infrastructure to compete with VMware, Citrix Systems, Microsoft, and a host of desktop virtualization third party specialists.

One comment under a recent headline citing Oracle's preparation of an end-to-end virtualization strategy said, "They can prep all they want but who can afford their licenses?" Oracle VM with Premier Support for a year's subscription is listed at $1,079.10. VMware sells lifetime ESX Server licenses for about $5,000.

Oracle has listed its products that can be acquired as ready to run, virtual machine templates.

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