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Volume 4, Number 42 -- November 14, 2007

Oracle Dives into the Server Virtualization Fray

Published: November 14, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

If software giant Oracle can't buy a business to bulk itself up and compete horizontally with the few remaining large software players, then it can attempt to monetize an open source product and thwart the competition that all the big players are feeling from below. So it was with Oracle's Unbreakable Linux variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux a little more than a year ago, and so it is today with the Oracle riff on the open source Xen hypervisor, Oracle VM, announced Monday at the company's OpenWorld event in San Francisco.

You have to read pretty far down to the bottom of the Oracle VM announcement to discover that the company is repackaging the Xen hypervisor developed by the formerly independent XenSource, which is now part of Citrix Systems after the latter company forked over $500 million to acquire XenSource back in August. Oracle did not disclose the guts of the Oracle VM product, but based on its description is seems to be a variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, which was just announced last week with an improved Xen 3.0.1 hypervisor. This is the hypervisor level that allows Windows guests to be supported inside of RHEL 5.1 atop the Xen hypervisor that is embedded in that variant of Linux (as it is also included inside Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1). Oracle is supporting its "own" Oracle Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, RHEL 3, 4, and 5, and Windows 2003 and Windows XP on Oracle VM as guests.

Oracle will begin offering the Oracle VM hypervisor for free starting on November 14 from its Web site, and is offering support on the software in two forms. A 24x7 contract for a machine with up to two processors costs $499 per system per year, while a 24x7 contract for a machine with an unlimited number of processors costs $799 per year. As was the case with Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, the pricing on support for Oracle's Xen implementation seems to be a lot lower than other products based on Xen. Oracle has not said, by the way, what management features will be available in its VM stack, which is what people are paying for anyway.

Oracle plans to distribute lots of its own software inside Oracle VM containers, including the 10.2.0.3 and 11.1 databases of its own as well as the TimesTen 7.0.3.1 and Berkeley DB 4.6 databases and its own Application Server 10g R2 and 10g R3 middleware. The company will also support Oracle Enterprise Manager 10.2.0.4 inside its own Xen implementation and various software stacks, including Oracle E-Business Suite 11.5.10 and 12, PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, Siebel CRM 8, and Hyperion 9.3.1.

Oracle managed to line up some quotes from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Liquid Computing, Advanced Micro Devices, Network Appliance, QLogic, Emulex, and Pillar Data Systems espousing support for Oracle VM. But the trick will be getting traction in the customer base. Presumably, there are customers out there that just want to be an Oracle shop. And now, it is possible to never leave the Oracle fold except to get hardware. If Oracle acquires Red Hat, which controls the popular JBoss middleware, and MySQL, which controls the wickedly popular database by that name, it can run the whole IT table. That would be the negotiating table. Considering that both are open source, Oracle doesn't really need to control the companies to accomplish this, of course. And don't be surprised when Oracle does just that.


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