Oracle's enhancements to its hypervisor, VM 3.0, are significant for current and potential Oracle VM customers but aren't likely to woo those using other hypervisors. The new features address automated VM management, centralized management and integration features. Oracle's VM hypervisor doesn't have the market penetration that VMware's vSphere does, but by packaging virtual machine images with Oracle applications, the company offers a relatively pain-free way to step into Oracle's application suites.
Oracle adds automated hypervisor load management to 3.0. The new policy-based resource management lets administrators set the conditions when new resources are added or removed based on demand. The distributed resource scheduling (DRS) will move VMs from platforms that are under load to platforms with less load, automatically balancing demand and compute resources. In addition, distributed power management (DPM) can consolidate VMs onto fewer hypervisors and power down unused hardware that isn't needed. Both DRS and DPM can automatically manage resources efficiently.
VM Manager centralizes network and storage management, removing the need to touch hypervisors. VM networking, such as NIC bonding and VLAN configuration, is available. The VM Storage Connector plug-ins integrate with storage management, exposing provisioning through the VM management platform. The announcement includes support for Oracle's own storage products, NetApp, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Pillar Data Systems, which Oracle acquired in June. Oracle says that there are more storage products going through development, but representatives were unable to say which products. The centralized network and storage management catches up features available in VMware's vSphere and is necessary for Oracle to keep current.
Oracles VM Templates are pre-packaged virtual machines, with Oracle applications pre-packaged and supported in VM 3.0, as well as VMs packaged using the DMTF's Open Virtualization Format (OVF). However, OVF addresses only VM configuration, and the actual disk images have to be converted before use, which is not unique to VM. Pre-packaged applications certainly ease product installation and configuration, but VMware has a broader set of virtual appliances from a variety of vendors. In many cases, pre-packaged applications follow a company's deployment best practices and can save administrators quite a bit of effort configuring an application. However, like any complex app, expect to spend some time customizing the applications for your environment.
Perhaps one of the biggest features Oracle wants you to know about is that Oracle VM 3.0 is available for free and support is charged on a per-server metric. VMware ruffled customers' feathers when it announced new licensing for vSphere based on virtual RAM usage. In a recent InformationWeek survey of 410 IT professionals, IT Pro Impact: VMware vSphere 5, 61% of respondents indicate the new licensing would be a deterrent to further adoption. The outcry was so loud that VMware changed its pricing by increasing the vRam limits earlier this month. But even some VMware customers are looking elsewhere. However, there are also costs associated with learning a new hypervisor, and there is a relative dearth of third-party development around Oracle VM.
VM 3.0 is a big step forward for Oracle, but it really only brings VM closer to alternatives like VMware and Hyper-V. Oracle still has a challenge competing against them, both in terms of market presence against VMware and ease of use with Microsoft's Hyper-V. Any competitor to VMware has to include partners to support and augment their virtualization platform. The Storage Connector API is a start.
See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports Strategy: Hypervisor Alternatives: Putting The Squeeze on VMware (subscription required).