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Update: OpenWorld: Oracle restricting app support to its own virtualization platform

But is Oracle narrowing its support or not?

By Eric Lai
November 14, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Buried under the surface of Oracle Corp.'s Monday announcement that it plans to get into the virtualization market is the fact that the company won't support its database and many other applications if they are running on virtualization software from VMware Inc., Microsoft Corp. or even Red Hat Inc.

That effectively limits enterprise users who want to run their Oracle applications more efficiently through virtualization to just Oracle's new virtual machine (VM).

Oracle VM is based on the Xen open-source hypervisor and Oracle's Unbreakable Linux software, which itself is a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The virtualization software, which was announced at Oracle's OpenWorld 2007 conference here, costs $999 annually per system.

"We have no current plans to support our apps on other virtualization platforms," said Ed Screven, Oracle's chief corporate development architect. Instead, he said, Oracle has "priced Oracle VM very aggressively so that customers can afford it."

By contrast, Red Hat's Xen-based virtualization software, which became available with the release of RHEL5 in March, comes free.

"Oracle is trying to monetize a separate product," said Brian Stevens, Red Hat's chief technology officer. "We just want to make virtualization ubiquitous."

About 18,000 servers are being virtualized via RHEL5 so far, said Stevens said, who added that Red Hat will support RHEL-certified applications on VMware.

"We will support IT choice, even while we try to compete with and out-innovate VMware," Stevens said. "Oracle is not recognizing VMware at all. ... This is the company you trust to have your best interests?"

VMware, however, argues that nothing has changed. Oracle has supported most of its applications (including its database) running on top of VMware since 2006, according to VMware vice-president of global partners and solutions, Brian Byun, in an interview Thursday.

As of Thursday, that hadn't officially changed, he said, pointing to Metalink Note 249212.1 at Oracle's support Web site (registration required), which he said is Oracle's official statement around support of VMware.

Byun also pointed to statements by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison during a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday (see 15:01 in Oracle Webcast), where in response to a question from a Bear, Stearns analyst over whether Oracle customers would get support on VMware, Ellison replied, "Essentially, yes."

"There's been some aggressive marketing spin and black-and-white statements made by Oracle," Byun said.

VMware also offered its own response in a detailed blog post entitled "Ten Reasons Why Oracle Databases Run Best on VMware," in which it claims that its VMware ESX Server can deliver "near-native performance."

Competition or customer service?

Screven asserted, however, that Oracle is choosing to support only its own virtualization platform for customer-service reasons rather than to gain some competitive edge.

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