I have recently completed an in-depth product profile of Virtual Iron 4.5, and was impressed by its capabilities. Virtual Iron focuses its product on the small to medium enterprise market, offering VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 like features for a much lower price. When ranked against Burton Group’s Hypervisor ranking criteria (see Chris Wolf’s blog on Production-class Hypervisor Evaluation Criteria), Virtual Iron scored one of the highest scores just behind VMware by meeting 83% of the required criteria. What’s most interesting is that where Virtual Iron falls short is in its product lifecycle support policies and enterprise management infrastructure integration. Virtual Iron targets small to medium businesses that are willing to give up enterprise level support for a much lower price and don’t need enterprise management integration. If we take out these two areas of missed evaluation criteria, Virtual Iron would rank 100% - better than the other competitors and in-line with VMware for required features. Now this says something of the technical value that Virtual Iron brings to the x86 virtualization market. Note, however, that Virtual Iron meets less than 50% of the preferred and optional features, further underscoring its small to medium business target market.
So what would Oracle want with Virtual Iron? Oracle announced Oracle Virtual Machine (OVM) on November 13, 2007; like Virtual Iron, a product based on the Xen hypervisor. OVM has been received with lackluster enthusiasm in the market mostly because it hasn't been widely marketed. Oracle's latest VM manager release (v2.1.2) includes features marching it towards richer VM management including high availability across host pools. Oracle released on the same day as my initial post of this blog, its Oracle VM Management Pack for Oracle's Enteprise Manager. There are some features in Virtual Iron that Oracle VM Manager lacks, but this does raise the question: Why would Oracle be interested in Virtual Iron if it already has much of what Virtual Iron has? One possibility may be the channel and market. Oracle traditionally services the large enterprise market, not the small to medium business market.
An interesting side note should be stated: A Xen based hypervisor is created by linking the open source Xen code with an operating system to provide the service partition for the hypervisor. Most Xen products link with some form of Linux (the only exception being Sun’s XVM that links with a Solaris kernel). Oracle’s OVM links with a Red Hat RHEL based kernel – a custom version of Oracle’s re-branded Red Hat Linux that they call Oracle Enterprise Linux (OEL). Virtual Iron links with Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10. In addition, Virtual Iron OEMs the Novell Platespin Migrate product and includes it in the Virtual Iron package to offer physical to virtual migration capabilities. An Oracle acquisition of Virtual Iron is sure to spell doom to the Virtual Iron OEM arrangement enjoyed by Novell.
We’ll see if any of these rumors unfold…
Posted by Richard Jones