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Oracle-Sun virtualization plans come into focus

Less than a week after the Oracle-Sun Microsystems acquisition closed, executives discussed the future of Oracle VM, Sun VirtualBox and other virtualization products.

Now that the Oracle-Sun Microsystems acquisition is official, future Oracle-Sun virtualization plans are coming to light.

Oracle executives stressed the value of their combined virtualization assets during a press conference today, less than a week after the European Commission finally approved the $7.4 billion deal.

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"We talk to IT folks, and it's clear that virtualization is one of the most important technologies to them, and the thing they're going to use for server consolidation, for energy savings and to improve labor costs," said Edward Screven, chief corporate architect. "But with Sun, it's much, much more. Together, we have by far the most comprehensive desktop-to-server, integrated management of the entire stack, from the application down to the bare metal. … We are a single source of support, because these environments can be complex."

Between the two companies, Oracle and Sun own virtualization technologies for server virtualization, operating system partitioning, hardware partitioning, desktop virtualization, thin clients, application presentation and virtualization management. But despite the product breadth, neither Oracle nor Sun virtualization technologies enjoy much market share.

Still, Screven signaled Oracle's willingness to take on the leader in the virtualization market.

"VMware is integrated with nothing," he said. "It's a point solution."

Managing SPARC and x86 together with Oracle-Sun virtualization

Oracle will enable management of two disparate virtualization platforms -- Oracle VM running on x86 systems, and Solaris LDoms running on SPARC CMT chips -- from a single console, Oracle Enterprise Manager.

"You'll be able to manage pools of SPARC and x86 systems side by side," Screven said.

Managing SPARC and x86 systems through Oracle Enterprise Manager is similar to Sun's approach prior to the acquisition: converged management of its Xen and LDOM platforms under the Sun xVM Ops Center management umbrella. Sun subsequently killed its Xen-based xVM Server hypervisor but continued work on xVM Ops Center.

Oracle VM and desktop virtualization from Oracle-Sun

Oracle will also continue to deliver its business applications as Oracle VM "templates," which is Oracle-speak for virtual appliances.

"These are collections of VMs where the software is preinstalled, preconfigured, and freeze-dried and you can inject it in to a VM pool and cause it to run," Screven said.

On the desktop management side, Screven said Oracle will continue to offer Sun VirtualBox as a tool for developers to create and configure Oracle VM templates, as well as Sun's desktop virtualization offerings, Secure Global Desktop and Sun Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Sun Ray, a thin client, will also continue to be available.

Oracle could also take advantage of its newfound hardware assets to deliver integrated hardware/software offerings optimized for virtualization. John Fowler, the former head of Sun's systems business unit, said Oracle could combine Sun Storage 7000 appliances and solid-state disk "for a tremendous performance boost before we can deliver VMs out of flash."

Users mixed on news
Virtualization users reacted with a mixture of relief and indifference to Oracle's virtualization pronouncements.

Patrick McFadin, director of systems and architecture at Hobsons, an educational software vendor in Cincinnati has been waiting for word on Oracle's virtualization plans since the company bought Virtual Iron last spring. With over half of the company's systems virtualized on fifty Virtual Iron hosts, the company has been in virtualization limbo, waiting to see what direction Oracle would take, but without the budget or will to move off the discontinued platform.

"It's heartening to see that they're being serious," McFadin said. "Switching off a virtualization platform is like brain surgery -- you just don't want to do it."

Outside Oracle circles, the company's message of integration fell flat.

"Myself, I don't like any of these integrated stacks from any of the companies providing them, they are all subpar in some way. I much prefer more open standards and cross platform support to be able to mix and match best of breed technologies," said Nate Amsden, operations engineer at Audience Science, a digital marketing firm in New York, N.Y. "I see these stacks as a way of trying to get more secure vendor lock in, and the price points just aren't compelling."

And even Hobson's McFadin had to admit that he probably wouldn't be thinking about Oracle virtualization if he weren't already a customer. "If I were starting from zero, it'd be really hard to tell management that I was planning to evaluate a product that's a moving target."

This report was updated on Thursday with user comments.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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