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VMware cost and Red Hat flaws spur shop to try Oracle VM

For one shop, Oracle VM has proven itself as the right virtualization option over VMware and Citrix XenServer, and the company has replaced Red Hat with Oracle Unbreakable Linux.

New York-based Interactive One LLC, the digital division of the radio network Radio One, has abandoned the Xen-based...

virtualization included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and shunned VMware Inc. in favor of Oracle VM server virtualization software for its growing social networking and media properties.

For more on Oracle and virtualization:
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Oracle licensing, support pose VMware virtualization hurdle

Interactive One operates 10 Web sites, including BlackPlanet.com, a social networking site for African Americans that has more than 25 million users. Over the next year, the company expects to support 60 Web sites as it brings content from its 52 radio stations online.

Until this year, Interactive One used the virtualization capabilities in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system but ditched RHEL in favor of Oracle Unbreakable Linux and Oracle VM because it was fed up with constant support and reliability problems, according to Nicholas Tang, the VP of technical operations at Interactive One.

We left Red Hat
because their support was subpar and a lot of the [management] tools they released for virtualization didn't actually work or weren't reliable.

Nicholas Tang,
VP of technical operationsInteractive One LLC

"We left Red Hat because their support was subpar, and a lot of the [management] tools they released for virtualization didn't actually work or weren't reliable," Tang said. "They wouldn't build working VMs, or the VMs would crash. We also had a lot of problems with their multipath tools in Red Hat 4, which didn't work until later updates. That is the case with a number of their features."

Going with Oracle virtualization
As a vigorous Oracle user, Tang said he checked out Oracle VM when it was released a year ago, but "wasn't impressed." Rather than certify its applications to run on the market-leading virtualization technology VMware ESX, in November 2007 Oracle introduced its own hypervisor product which annoyed Oracle users.

"We didn't know if they were taking the product seriously or just wanted a way to get at Red Hat and Microsoft and VMware," Tang said. But, at the start of this year, he decided to give Oracle VM a shot because it was the most affordable, he said.

"Oracle VM was a better option because VMware was cost-prohibitive for us, as was Citrix XenServer. We had already made a substantial investment in Oracle, and they offered us a much better deal than either of the others," Tang said.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and Oracle VM does not offer the wealth of features that VMware does. But thus far, Tang said, he is satisfied with Oracle VM's performance.

"We tried it out and decided it is a pretty good product overall," Tang said. "You can build machines and roll them out quickly, and [Oracle VM] appears to be coming through on the promises Red Hat made" regarding reliability and support.

Now, Interactive One uses Oracle VM in several areas of its data center, including for batch processing, for Web servers with low traffic, in testing and development, for backup machines and as a platform for production MySQL databases, he said.

Tang has also begun to test Oracle VM's new high-availability feature, released in September and hopes to get the enhancement into production soon. The feature auto-restarts a failed VM or, if a server fails, auto-restarts all failed VMs that ran on that server. The latest version of Oracle VM 2.1.2 also includes live migration, physical-to-virtual migration, and virtual-to-virtual migration between VMware and Oracle VM.

Interactive One has 220 physical servers in production, and, with Oracle VM, Tang hopes to consolidate that number down to about 95 . So far, Interactive One has about a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio virtual-to-physical ratio, and has about 50 Oracle VM guests running.

Tang also plans to save additional power resources by decommissioning a handful of 5-year old machines and replacing them with low-voltage Intel servers. By switching to more efficient physical servers and virtualizing as many boxes as possible, Tang expects that within 13 months, the company will save enough money on power and cooling to see a return on investment .

In addition, Tang plans on giving his shop's few remaining VMware servers the boot. "We have some VMware based Windows boxes, and I'm hoping to transition away from VMware because of cost and to have the same core technology running throughout our entire environment."

"We hope to keep growing our use of Oracle VM and use it in as many places as possible. There is a good chance by the middle of next year we'll be running Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) on Oracle VM, which should be interesting," he said.

Oracle's RAC was certified to run on Oracle VM in the most recent release.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer. And check out our Server Virtualization blog.

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