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Oracle VM not half bad, users say

It's no VMware vSphere, but Oracle VM shows some promise and can promote better resource utilization for smaller Oracle applications.

Oracle's continued refusal to support its applications virtualized on something other than the Oracle VM hypervisor has forced the hands of some users, pushing them to try the Xen-based virtualization offering. And after some initial resistance, they say Oracle VM isn't half bad.

For more on Oracle VM:
Can Oracle be a virtualization player?

Oracle reverts to bad old days on virtualization support

Managed hosting provider Data Intensity in Bedford, Mass., uses Oracle VM in its own internal lab and in a public-facing "cloud" where customers can check out new Oracle applications. The company also uses VMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V, and engineers didn't exactly welcome Oracle VM with open arms, said Marc Caruso, the vice president of service management.

"They were really hesitant at first, and we got a lot of pushback." But initial feedback has been relatively positive. "They say the GUI [graphical user interface] tools aren't there, but the command line is, and we're getting to the point where we can automate our builds."

Likewise, Oracle partner Re-Quest Inc., in Naperville, Ill., uses Oracle VM for its internal infrastructure and has built out several Oracle VM-based environments for customers. Re-Quest engineers also called out Oracle VM's interface.

The management interfaces aren't as sexy as what you'd find in a mature VMware platform.
Ron Zapar,
CEORe-Quest Inc.

"The management interfaces aren't as sexy as what you'd find in a mature VMware platform," said Ron Zapar, Re-Quest's CEO. At the same time, "Oracle sys admins and DBAs [database administrators] are used to doing things at the command line; it's not as big a culture shock as it is for people used to running a mature VMware environment."

Oracle VM performance and stability are there as well, Mancuso said -- although many of the niceties engineers are used to from VMware are not.

"Things we'd like to see improved are failover, load balancing, network 'vSwitching,' and memory oversubscription," Mancuso said. And while that might seem like a pretty long list, "we're pretty confident about OVM [Oracle VM] 3.0 -- that it is going to come down the pike with those things."

Physical processor licensing still rankles
Contrary to Oracle marketing, these shops don't necessarily use Oracle VM to save money. While the hypervisor is free, Oracle prices its applications based on underlying physical cores -- even if the virtualized application doesn't use all these resources -- precludes much of a cost savings from virtualizing Oracle applications.

"Oracle really needs to get with the times with the way they license with virtualization," Caruso said.

Physical processor licensing isn't such an issue with large Oracle databases that consume any compute resources you can throw its way. But it's an issue for ERP systems, for example, where the middle app tier layer tends to run at 10% CPU utilization, and 50% memory. "That's a good opportunity to get utilization via virtualization," Caruso said.

For Oracle customers holding out for some virtualization relief from Oracle, Re-Quest's Zapar said that Oracle is not likely to bend on the question of support.

In the meantime, he predicts that Oracle VM users will continue to fall into one of two groups: small companies just getting started with Oracle applications, and -- for that matter -- virtualization; and large enterprises that have the staff and infrastructure resources to run a dedicated Oracle environment, but want the support promise.

For everyone in between, the Oracle VM question becomes one of how much of a risk a shop is willing to take running Oracle apps on VMware.

"Bottom line is, you can run on VMware all day and all night. But the minute you have a new bug, the burden is on the customer to prove that it's not a virtualization-induced problem," Zapar said. Unless a customer pushes the envelope, however, and runs brand-new technologies, that's probably not much of a risk. "We've supported customers running Oracle apps on VMware for years and have never run in to an issue," that hadn't already occurred at some other customer on physical hardware. "But," he added, "there's always a first time."

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

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