Theoretically, putting Oracle database applications on virtual machines (VMs) is desirable, because it can translate into hardware cost reduction, power savings, greater flexibility and high availability. Further, application management is simplified, since patching and upgrading can be done virtually, according to Matt Portnoy, a senior systems engineer at VMware.
Much to the chagrin of users, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company has refused to certify or support its applications for VMware and instead came out with its own virtualization product.
"Our position on VMware is the same," said Oracle's senior director of product marketing, Monica Kumar. "We don't certify Oracle on VMware, and [any issues] need to be reproduced in a certified environment for us to support it."Oracle VM
Oracle's Xen-based hypervisor runs on x86-64 Intel- and AMD- based systems and can support any operating system that runs on those boxes. Oracle officially certifies Linux and Microsoft Windows to run as a guest OS, said Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's vice president of Linux engineering. The management tool Oracle VM Manager comes in the form of a Web-based interface that manages virtual server pools and performs tasks like live migrations.
Oracle VM supports Oracle and non-Oracle applications, and the company is working with partners to certify other applications to run on Oracle VM, according to Kumar.
According to Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. "Oracle's play is, 'If you want to run Oracle apps in a virtual environment, buy the entire software stack from us, because we have complete control over it and we can track any problems down since we own the whole thing.' "
Despite Oracle's insistence on shunning VMware, oddly enough, the database software giant was genial enough to host the company at Oracle OpenWorld in November for a presentation on how to virtualize Oracle applications.
VMware doesn't seem to mind that Oracle won't support its apps on ESX Server; the company promotes virtualizing Oracle and describes how to do so on its website. VMware also held three sessions on virtualizing Oracle applications during VMworld in September 2007. Nonetheless, Oracle claims it can provide users only through testing and support for virtualized Oracle databases.
"As much as vendors try to say virtual environments are the same as physical, in enterprises with many databases, we cannot confidently claim that," said Coekaerts. "With Oracle VM, we have tested and certified our databases on our VMs, and we know how they will perform on our product."
As for performance, when asked how Oracle VM stacks up to VMware performance-wise, Coekaerts had this to say: "Oracle cannot publicly state performance benchmarks due to VMware rules." But on Oracle's website, the company claims to be "three times more efficient than other server virtualization products."
According to VMware, Oracle Database 11g on VMware ESX Server runs on VMware ESX at near-native performance, and the CPU overhead for Oracle Database on VMware ESX can be less than 10%.Where are the users?
Oracle could not provide Oracle VM users, and when asked how many customers have adopted Oracle VM since it launched about six months ago, a representative said, "Oracle does not provide details surrounding numbers of customer adoption."
Conversely, Citrix Systems Inc. offers up XenServer user references on its website, and VMware posts hundreds of user stories on its Web page as well, though it should be noted that both companies have sold virtualization software longer than has Oracle.
An open call for Oracle VM users on the popular ARS OpenForum on May 1 yielded zero results a week later, but users did come forward to discuss their experience with virtualizing Oracle applications on VMware.
Jason Shiplett, an IT support analyst at a construction equipment manufacturing company in Oklahoma, said he runs Oracle applications on VMware ESX using a Dell PE2950 with Intel Xeon X5355 processors, and hasn't noticed any performance overhead issues.
One large Oracle PeopleSoft customer told SearchServerVirtulization.com that he refuses to adopt Oracle VM because it is "technically inferior to ESX Server," but he didn't want the burden of running and managing a second virtualization environment.
Haff said if other software companies follow Oracle's path and create their own hypervisors, it will create major headaches for users. "When you start talking about having a virtualized infrastructure across a data center, who wants to screw around with hypervisors from all of these different ISVs [independent software vendors]?" he wondered. "I can see it from Oracle, because of their scale, but not for other smaller software companies."
Haff added, "Oracle is a special case, because they have huge applications that aren't typically virtualized first. [Oracle VM] isn't a concept that has taken the world by storm, but it is not total BS.There are reasonable arguments for it."
Another user doesn't see the point of virtualizing Oracle at all. As David Rice, a senior network security analyst blogged, "Why bother with Oracle virtualized? With a solid OS (Unix based) you can run 50 different versions of Oracle on the same box resource managed without the overhead of a hypervisor."
"The biggest bang for your buck here is if you run a lot of Oracle applications; then this makes sense, from a cost standpoint," Coekaerts said.
For users who want to give Oracle VM a shot, it is free to download, and the support services cost $499 a year for two processor sockets systems and $999 per year for systems with more than two sockets.