Oracle Strengthens Hand In Virtualization Market

Throwing down a challenge to virtualization technology giant VMware, Oracle unveiled a new release of its competing -- and free -- virtualization software the company claims is four times more scalable than VMware's software

Oracle also debuted Oracle VM Storage Connect plug-ins for the new Oracle VM 3.0 release, which the vendor said IT administrators can use to configure and manage storage systems that are attached to their Oracle VM server pools.

The Storage Connect integration, along with Oracle VM 3.0's improved user interface, are among the new release's features that Oracle channel partners are most anticipating.

"That's going to significantly benefit our storage management operations, reduce storage management costs and further increase our [storage management] automation capabilities," said Marc Caruso, vice president of enterprise architecture and applications at Data Intensity Inc., a Bedford, Mass.-based Oracle platinum partner, in an interview.

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Coming a week before VMware's VMworld 2011 conference, the debut of Oracle VM 3.0 seems squarely targeted at that competitor. In a Web broadcast Tuesday Oracle executives touted the capabilities of Oracle VM 3.0, saying its support for up to 128 virtual CPUs per virtual machine makes it four times more scalable than VMware's latest technology. Oracle said Oracle VM 3.0 has been benchmarked supporting up to 160 physical CPUs and 2 TB of memory on Oracle's Sun Fire X4800 M2 servers.

Oracle also said that when compared to VMware vSphere5 running Red Hat Enterprise Linux guest VMs, the Oracle software running Oracle Linux guest VMs is four times less expensive. "Cost is a significant factor for our customers," said Monica Kumar, senior product marketing manager, in a phone briefing prior to the Oracle VM 3.0 announcement.

VMware spokespeople did not immediately return requests for comment on Oracle's competitive claims.

VMware recently found itself in a controversy when customers complained that proposed licensing changes in vSphere 5 threatened some with a significant price hike. VMware later changed its licensing model in response to the complaints.

Next: Enhancements Improve Software Configuration, Storage Management Capabilities

Oracle VM is based on the open-source Xen hypervisor technology and is a free download, in terms of licensing fees, although customers pay support subscriptions for the software.

"It's a huge cost-benefit, no doubt about it," Data Intensity's Caruso said of Oracle's distribution approach. "It allows us to offer the lowest cost functionality to our customers."

Data Intensity provides hosting and application management services and uses Oracle VM to run those services, as well as providing it to customers with hybrid on-premise/cloud environments. Caruso said about 85 percent of the company's business is based on Oracle products and Oracle VM is certified to work within those Oracle environments. But while Oracle said its virtualization software supports Solaris, Linux and Windows systems, Caruso said Data Intensity partners with VMware and uses that company's virtualization software for environments that include Microsoft Windows.

Caruso also praised the new Oracle VM 3.0 user interface, saying it will simplify Data Intensity's system configuration chores, compared to using the command line interface on older releases.

A key focus of the new release's capabilities is its ability to "make it easy to deploy and manage applications," Kumar said. The software includes templates for working with a broad range of Oracle software, including E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications, said Adam Hawley, senior director of product management.

The new Storage Connect plug-in framework for Oracle VM 3.0 will let administrators manage both virtualized systems and attached storage arrays through the new Oracle VM Manager. Oracle is currently developing plug-ins for its Pillar Axiom SAN system and Sun ZFS Storage Appliance, as well as storage systems from other manufacturers including Fujitsu, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp.

Oracle VM Manager is a new component of Oracle VM that leverages Oracle Application Development Framework and Oracle WebLogic Server 11g to simplify administrative tasks through a browser.

Other enhancements in Oracle VM 3.0 include centralized network configuration and management capabilities, advanced policy-based management tools, and support for the Open Virtualization Format industry standard for application developers.