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Oracle sweetens pot with templates but won't budge on VM licensing

Bundling key Oracle applications as Oracle VM templates may stoke demand for the virtualization platform, but the company's per-processor licensing policy remains a hurdle.

Today, Oracle dangled three new carrots for potential Oracle VM users: Oracle Siebel CRM packaged as an Oracle VM template (or virtual appliance); a free graphical tool for building custom templates, and new Oracle Validated Configurations running on Oracle VM. But the company remains steadfast in the virtualization-unfriendly way it licenses and prices its applications running in virtual environments.

For more on Oracle virtualization:
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Chris Wolf, a senior analyst at Burton Group, said that Oracle's policy of licensing its applications per physical processor does not favor running its applications inside a virtual machine (VM), because the VM might not use all the underlying processors.

"It costs more money to run Oracle apps in a VM than it does on bare metal," Wolf said. "Until Oracle restructures its pricing policies to be in line with customer expectations, [customers] aren't going to be doing anything."

Still a one-hypervisor world
Separately, Wolf said Oracle's enterprise customers are already largely VMware shops and are reluctant to add a second hypervisor platform for just a few server applications. "It adds to the TCO because you need separate management tools and training," he said.

For instance, e-commerce provider Jewelry Television is a VMware shop, and infrastructure engineer Wesley Baker said the company has no need for two hypervisor platforms.

It costs more money to run Oracle apps in a VM than it does on bare metal.
Chris Wolf,
senior analystBurton Group
"I've played around with other virtualization platforms, and VMware is all we need, even at the low end," he said. Even if, hypothetically, another virtualization platform were technically equivalent to VMware, having two platforms "would certainly present a management burden."

The only exception would be if there were a "central management hub" from which both environments could be managed, Baker said. "Then we would probably consider it. But without that, no."

On the support front, Wolf said Oracle and its enterprise customers appeared to have reached an acceptable compromise. Officially, Oracle says it does not support its applications under third-party hypervisors. In practice, Wolf said that Oracle supports its applications running on, say, VMware, if they're presented with a known Oracle bug. "But if you're the first to have this problem, you have to reproduce it on physical hardware."

Oracle, meanwhile, remains hopeful that its Oracle VM template strategy will bear fruit and "jump-start momentum," said Monica Kumar, Oracle's senior director for open source marketing. Other than Siebel CRM, Oracle also offers a total of 10 templates, including ones for Oracle Database, Oracle Enterprise Manager and Oracle Fusion Middleware.

The free, open source Oracle VM Template Builder is available for both independent software vendors and end users to create their own virtual appliances based on the Oracle Enterprise Linux (OEL) "Just enough Operating System" (JeOS). Since OEL is a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), that shouldn't present any issues to organizations that have standardized on RHEL for its Linux distribution, Wolf said.

Kumar also touted Oracle Validated Configurations (OVC), a pretested Oracle application configuration including optimized security, network, driver, server, storage – and now virtualization -- settings, plus best practices. Some 145 free OVCs are available from the Oracle Technology Network , Kumar said. "Otherwise, customers are looking for information from the vendors," she said.

Virtual Iron integration on the horizon
Meanwhile, Oracle is working to integrate the assets it acquired from Virtual Iron Software Inc. earlier this year into Oracle VM. Oracle discontinued further development of the Virtual Iron platform this spring, but in a conference call with Virtual Iron partners and customers last month, Wim Coekaerts, Oracle vice president of Linux engineering, said that the company's goal was to combine the best of both worlds into a 3.0 version of Oracle VM between now and May 2010.

Specifically, Oracle VM will inherit Virtual Iron's distributed resource management, power management, and easy-to-use Java and Web interfaces, Coekaerts said.

Coekaerts also said other features of Oracle VM 3.0 will be easier template creation (presumably reflected in today's Oracle VM Template Builder announcement) and better storage management capabilities.

An interim Oracle VM 2.2 release "will lay the groundwork to be able to move toward a combined product," Coekaerts said, "and will be the last major release in the 2.x family."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director. And check out our Server Virtualization blog.

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