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

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

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On Monday, Oracle announced Oracle VM, its new server virtualisation 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 virtualised environments, noted Oracle president Charles Phillips. The new virtualisation 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 virtualisation," 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, Dell, AMD, HP, Network Appliance, QLogic, Emulex, Pillar Data Systems and Liquid Computing, said Oracle.

An island unto itself?

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

"The idea [that] people will gravitate to Oracle VM for virtualisation 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, Microsoft announced on Monday that by mid-2008, the software provider will introduce Standard, Enterprise and Data centre versions of Windows Server 2008 incorporating its Hyper-V virtualisation 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 virtualisation 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 virtualisation. Further, he said customers need greater guidance from Oracle to better understand virtualisation licensing issues surrounding Oracle software.

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

Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research, said that since Oracle already has grid technology, it's a natural step to offer its brand of virtualisation 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 virtualisation are Oracle's low-hanging fruit. However, that becomes a much more difficult proposition to attract Oracle users already running virtualised environments. "It's going to be a tougher sell for those who have gone another way already," remarked Wettemann.


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