Oracle launched another salvo in the virtual machine battle (see The battle over virtual machine software for a deeper analysis of the battle) by offering Oracle VM 3.3. As mentioned in that article, each supplier of virtual machine software is trying to engage software and hardware suppliers in the hopes of creating an “all-encompassing” ecosystem that would encourage customers to select their technology over that offered by other suppliers or communities.
Wim Coekearts, Oracle's SVP, Linux and Virtualization Engineering, discussed this release with me a short while ago.
What's new in Oracle VM 3.3
Oracle has a long list of changes and improvements that are part of this release. Here's what Oracle has to say about it:
- The latest release of Oracle VM delivers enterprise-scale performance enhancements that provide customers with more flexibility, ease-of-use, and management.
- Oracle VM’s application-driven architecture continues to deliver support for a wide range of enterprise applications including Oracle and non-Oracle application workloads with updated Oracle VM paravirtual (PV) drivers for Microsoft Windows.
- Oracle VM 3.3 adds improvements to unified virtualization management for SPARC and x86 systems running Oracle VM Server, in a single console.
- Oracle VM is available as a free download with zero license cost and world-class enterprise support.
Quick overview of Oracle VM 3.3
Oracle VM 3.3 supports both X86 and SPARC-based systems. The hypervisor supports Oracle Solaris on SPARC-based systems and the typical portfolio of operating systems on X86 systems including Oracle Linux and Microsoft Windows. Although not mentioned in the release, Coekearts pointed out that if a customer had standardized on Red Hat or SUSE Linux, the software will support those workloads as well.
The key point Coekearts made was that Oracle had gone to great effort to offer fine-grained control over the configuration and behavior of components running within the virtual machine, directly from Oracle VM Manager. This includes the OpenStack technology preview and the latest version of Oracle Linux.
To facilitate Oracle VM's ability to host Windows server on industry-standard systems, Oracle developed Oracle VM PV (paravirtualization) drivers for Microsoft Windows. The goal was to boost network and disk I/O throughput for Microsoft Windows guest OS environments.
Coekearts was happy to point out that Windows PV drivers along with Oracle VM Server for x86 have passed the Microsoft Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) requirements, enabling better support for customers running Windows workloads on an Oracle VM environment.
Oracle VM Server for x86 incorporates Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel Release 3. This is the same kernel used in Oracle Linux.
It also offers a new virtual machine console that uses HTML5 features to provide faster and more reliable console access rather than requiring that a Java virtual machine be installed on the system for management purposes.
Oracle VM Manager comes bundled with MySQL Enterprise Edition, providing automated database backup and integrated tools for database object consistency checking to improve supportability and management.
As I've often pointed out before, virtual machine software has become established as a basic part of the foundation of workloads that execute on industry standard X86 systems. Virtual machine software, however, is piece of software that lives near the bottom of the software stack.
The challenge faced by suppliers of virtual machine software for industry standard systems, such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Oracle, the Xen community, the KVM community and Linux distributors, such as Red Hat and SUSE, is making what is largely an invisible layer of technology visible and interesting to customers.
Building a simple function into ever more complex environments
What all of the virtual machine software suppliers are doing is finding clever ways to tie their virtual machine technology to other layers of software. As I've mentioned before, in the hopes of making their virtual machine technology more desirable than all the others, Oracle and their competitors have added technology to their virtual machine environments that accomplish the following:
- The ability for virtual machines to utilize all or a specific number of physical processors or cores so that ever more complex applications can be supported. It is now expected that virtual machines can execute on 16, 32 or even 64 virtual processors, based upon available physical hardware and the needs of a given application.
- The ability to assign applications to specific processors to achieve needed levels of performance.
- The ability to place virtual machines that make up a single complex workload on several different physical systems to improve overall performance and not create performance problems when multiple high resource-consuming tasks end up competing for the same physical resources on a single system.
- The ability for templates to be developed that fit the requirements for specific workloads so that new virtual machines can be spun up and provisioned quickly to address growing workload requirements.
- The ability for virtual machine key performance indicators to be monitored and managed using tools that use standards such as the simple network management protocol (SNMP) by exposing a standard management information block (MIB). This makes it possible for just about any management tool or framework to work with the virtual machines.
- The ability for virtual machines and the data they're managing to reside in virtualized storage. This means that important data can reside in just about any type of storage, just about anywhere. This also means that virtual machines can be moved from one physical processor to another. It also means that organizations can choose storage network media and the type of storage used to best fit their budget and needed performance profile.
- Making available virtual machine movement software to that executing virtual machines can be moved from one physical machine to another without losing data or crashing. This function can be the foundation for application clusters, high availability clusters and even be the foundation of sophisticated back-up and disaster recovery functions.
- Making virtual machines fit nicely (read integration) into a growing number of cloud computing frameworks, such as AWS/Eucalyptus, OpenStack or CloudStack. As organizations increasingly organize their internal resources as on-premise clouds or utilize resources offered by cloud services providers, this level of integration can become a key requirement when they purchase virtual machine software.
- Integrating their virtual machine software into big data environments that are supporting Apache Hadoop or other analytics software.
Let's look at Oracle
Like all of the others, Oracle has been enfolding its distribution of Xen in an ever more sophisticated array of technology that does all of the above and more.
If your organization has standardized on Oracle applications, database and development tools, Oracle VM is an obvious choice. It appears that Oracle, now recognizing that some customers don't want an all-Oracle environment, is offering some level of support to those who have chosen other products, such as those offered by VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft.