This was stunning for me to see and it totally caught me of guard! I was never expecting such a bold statement of supportability from Oracle!

By surprise Oracle today announces its own hypervisor based on Xen: Oracle VM.

The new product includes a web management console and will be released for free (with optional support agreements) on November 14.

The move comes completely unexpected for a couple of reasons:

  • So far the company was totally reluctant to embrace virtualization, refusing to change its licensing model and support policy
  • Until today Oracle had a pretty good relationship with VMware: despite its official position on the technology it never discouraged the VMware salesforce to push Oracle RAC in virtual machines

On one side the announcement and all related documentation reveals how Oracle is just partially changing its position about virtualization. The Oracle VM FAQs report:

How are Oracle products priced and licensed for use with Oracle VM?
There is no change in pricing and licensing of Oracle's products for use with Oracle VM. Oracle counts and licenses physical processors on which the licensed programs are installed and/or running.

What is really changing is the support policy. Oracle now officially covers following products installed in its virtual machines:

  • Oracle Database 10g Release 2 and Oracle Database 11g Release 1
  • Oracle Application Server 10gR2 and 10gR3
  • Oracle Enterprise Manager 10.2.0.4
  • Oracle Berkeley DB 4.6
  • Oracle TimesTen 7.0.3.1
  • Oracle E-Business Suite 11.5.10 and 12
  • Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise 8.4.x and 9.0
  • PeopleTools 8.49.07 and above
  • Oracle Siebel CRM 8.0
  • Oracle Hyperion 9.3.1

On top of that Oracle also states that is working on para-virtualization drivers for Microsoft Windows guest OSes, which performances the company doesn't consider acceptable at today.

On the other side with this release Oracle drastically changes its position towards VMware.

First of all the official support statement quoted above implies that any other hypervisor (including VMware ESX Server) will not receive similar support:

Will Oracle support customers who are using Oracle products on other x86 server virtualization environments?
Oracle VM is the only x86-based server virtualization environment on which Oracle products are supported.

Secondarily another part of the Oracle VM FAQs states that Oracle applications on Oracle VM (so we are talking about Xen hypervisor) are far better than on ESX Server:

How is Oracle VM three times more efficient than existing x86 server virtualization products?
Oracle ran many performance benchmarks comparing Oracle products running with Oracle VM against the existing leading server virtualization product and also with Oracle products on non-virtualized operating systems on x86 and x86-64. Oracle consistently saw much better resource utilization with an average of three times less overhead using Oracle VM, and also saw significant scalability with virtual SMP. In many cases, the comparison with real hardware was approximately equal in performance.

Now the announcement will have two side effects:

  • All VMware customers which decided to trust company salesforce and migrated Oracle into ESX Server virtual machines will have a serious problem and will need to move away as soon as possible
  • Oracle example may push other major ISVs to adopt same policy, supporting virtual versions of their applications only on their own hypervisors, which would lead to an uncontrolled proliferation of virtualization platforms. And this will boost demand for management solutions which support multiple virtualization vendors.