Oracle races onto server virtualization highway; are speed traps ahead?

Analyst says Oracle VM 'destined to be island' for own apps

On Monday, Oracle Corp. announced Oracle VM, its new server virtualization software technology, to attendees at its Oracle OpenWorld user conference.

Oracle VM is built on Xen hypervisor open-source code and is designed to support and centrally manage Oracle and non-Oracle applications within virtualized environments, noted Oracle president Charles Phillips. The new virtualization software features support for Linux OS, as well as for the company's database, application software and Fusion middleware offerings.

According to Oracle officials, Oracle VM will be available for download beginning Wednesday. Pricing for Oracle VM is on a per-system basis; Oracle said a system with unlimited CPUs will cost $999 per year for each system.

In his keynote speech, Phillips said that Oracle VM is the application provider's Web-based answer to managing virtual server pools running on x86 and z86 64-based systems. "We have an answer to virtualization," he said.

A complete PDF listing of all Oracle applications, middleware and database products certified with Oracle VM can be found on the company's site.

Vendors providing support for Oracle VM include Intel Corp., Dell Inc., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Network Appliance Inc., QLogic Corp., Emulex Corp., Pillar Data Systems and Liquid Computing Corp., said Oracle.

An island unto itself?

Galen Shreck, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said that despite Oracle's considerable install base and application breadth, the company will be unable to convince customers to flock to its nascent virtualization technology for third-party applications. He said Oracle will have its hands full trying to keep pace with ensconced server virtualization companies.

"The idea [that] people will gravitate to Oracle VM for virtualization for non-Oracle applications [is interesting but] I don't think they will. [Instead] they'll go to VMware, Microsoft or Citrix," said Shreck. "I don't think Oracle can keep up."

He continued, "[Oracle VM] is basically destined to be its own island. I don't think today that Oracle really has the either the system management or the relationship with ISV partners to create their own computing platform for general-purpose applications."

Meanwhile, at Microsoft ...

Microsoft Corp. announced on Monday that by mid-2008, the software provider will introduce Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter versions of Windows Server 2008 incorporating its Hyper-V virtualization software.

In response to the Oracle VM announcement, Patrick O'Rourke, group product manager for Microsoft's server and tools business, said, "Customer choice is important and as the market emerges, I expect we'll see many companies bring virtualization offerings to the table."

Parag Patel, VMware's vice president of alliances, said that he hoped Oracle VM was the "first of many steps" that Oracle will embark upon toward broad enablement of virtualization. Further, he said customers need greater guidance from Oracle to better understand virtualization licensing issues surrounding Oracle software.

"Our many mutual customers are looking for stronger virtualization support from Oracle, including clear and consistent licensing guidelines for running Oracle software in virtualized environments," remarked Patel.

Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Wellesley, Mass.-based Nucleus Research Inc., said that since Oracle already has grid technology, it's a natural step to offer its brand of virtualization to enable its customers to streamline broad IT support under a single vendor.

She said that Oracle customers who have yet to invest heavily in virtualization are Oracle's low-hanging fruit. However, that becomes a much more difficult proposition to attract Oracle users already running virtualized environments. "It's going to be a tougher sell for those who have gone another way already," remarked Wettemann.

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