Open-source virtualization: Who's biting?

Cost is a big motivator, and so is the ability to tweak the software

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Is Oracle's role broadening?

Oracle's recent acquisitions of Virtual Iron and Sun Microsystems, and their respective virtualization technology, could prove interesting long-term. While most observers expect Oracle's open-source virtualization software to be a hit primarily in existing Oracle shops, Sun's large customer base may give Oracle a chance to penetrate a greater number of corporate IT departments, says Claybrook.

"Oracle will probably end up with the largest open source for virtualization installed base of any one of their competitors," Claybrook predicts.

For its part, the University of Massachusetts is running Oracle VM because it is such a huge Oracle shop in general, says Michael Poole, chief technology officer "It made sense to choose Oracle VM . . . especially with the significant number of Oracle applications we support." He says the university has realized significant performance gains and considerable cost reductions in its operations.

UMass is in the middle of an infrastructure-transformation project that consists of many sub-projects. While planning a new primary data center and a more robust disaster-recovery and testing data center, UMass investigated many options and chose to standardize on open-source Xen Virtualization with Oracle VM and Oracle Unbreakable Linux support. UMass started implementing Oracle VM a little over a year ago.

Michael Poole at UMass
The University of Massachusetts is running Oracle VM because it uses so many other Oracle packages, says Michael Poole, chief technology officer.

By next summer -- the target date for the infrastructure project's completion -- Poole says the university will reduce its physical servers from 500 to fewer than 300. It also expects to save close to $100,000 a year in power and cooling costs alone. And UMass will have totally switched from VMware over to Oracle VM.

The university's IT infrastructure is managed and monitored with Oracle Enterprise Manager, and UMass makes extensive use of Oracle's PeopleSoft ERP, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle DB, Oracle Real Application Clusters RAC and Oracle WebLogic servers. UMass is adding Oracle Business Intelligence Suite and the Oracle Identity Management Suite to its lineup.

"We're a big Oracle shop. It was important to us to buy into the logic that says Oracle is developing and testing all of their applications on the Oracle infrastructure components, including Oracle VM, and getting the kinks out of the system, or at least reducing them before they get into general release," Poole says.

Poole explains that one of the university's biggest successes to date has been the virtualization of its Blackboard Vista learning management system. Through this, professors distribute content, exchange emails and engage in live discussions over the Internet with 63,000 students.

Server virtualization stats

The rising tide of server virtualization use will lift all boats, including the use of open-source software. There are approximately 5.8 million virtual machines in use today, but by 2012 that number will grow to 58 million, a tenfold leap, Gartner says.

Percentage of servers that run virtualization now - 19%
Percentage of servers that will run virtualization next year - 28%
Percentage of servers that will run virtualization in 2012 - 50%

Source: Gartner Group

Before it was virtualized, the Blackboard Vista application ran on 40 separate Solaris-based application servers. Today the number of physical servers running the application has shrunk to 5 and performance has quadrupled, Poole says.

By using Oracle VM to virtualize Blackboard Vista, Poole says, We've seen a very significant reduction in hardware while at the same time dramatically improving upon performance and scalability." Poole estimates that the difference in the cost of the hardware alone was nearly $300,000.

[Some Oracle customers have recently complained about the vendor's virtualization-support policies, however.]

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