Oracle Joins Virtual Fray

Opinion: Oracle VM has Red Hat Enterprise Linux at its core but offers built-in distinctions as well.

At Oracles recent OpenWorld megashow in San Francisco, the enterprise software behemoth threw its hat into the server virtualization ring with the release of Oracle VM.

If youre familiar with the heritage of Oracles Unbreakable Linux operating system, it should come as no surprise that Oracles hat has a distinctively red hue. As with Unbreakable Linux, Oracle VM is, at its core, a rebranded version of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), which recently underwent its own virtual refurbishing with the release of Version 5.1.

However, Oracle has managed to wrap plenty of differentiation around this core, such as its own clustering file system, a management framework powered by Oracle middleware and, most important, certification exclusivity for 10 of Oracles own products.

As the popularity of x86 virtualization has surged over the past few years, Oracle has been a high-profile virtualization holdout. The company hasnt agreed to support its products on virtual platforms unless customers can show that the problems they experience do not stem from virtualization.

Oracle customers whod rather not spend time bouncing around among the support operations of their various stack vendors can excise their OS and virtualization vendors and hand the keys to Oracle—at least, thats how the sales pitch goes.

As Red Hat was quick to point out when Unbreakable Linux was born, one-stop-support shopping doesnt automatically deliver the best value even if the code in question is, at its core, the same.

In a VMware document titled "Ten Reasons Why Oracle Databases Run Best on VMware," the virtualization front-runner ticks off its platforms technological benefits.


Read here how Oracles free VM offering is raising eyebrows.

However, the big difference between the Oracle versus Red Hat OS showdown and the virtualization showdown thats now begun between Oracle and VMware is that Red Hat had ISV certifications on its side. Oracles products were already certified on RHEL, alongside a formidably large number of other certified software products.

On the other hand, while VMware has demonstrated that Oracles products can work well on VMwares platform, those products havent yet been—and now, if Oracle customers allow the database giant to get away with it, may never be—certified and supported.

I suspect more large vendors will begin looking to reach down the stack to fold OS and virtualization capabilities into their software. If VMware is to maintain its strong position as a platform vendor, the company will have to make it more attractive for these ISVs to run their stack consolidations through VMware than on their own. If VMware plays it well, we may see Oracle stock­holders worrying about VMware leading a charge to grab a piece of Oracles action, instead of the reverse.


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