Oracle trots out virtualization appliance, taking on NetApp and EMC

The Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance ships with network technology bought from Xsigo Systems

Oracle has joined the market for pre-integrated systems intended to ease the process of setting up and managing a virtualized compute environment.

The Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance, released on Tuesday, includes Oracle x86 servers and storage hardware, along with network virtualization technology that Oracle acquired last year when it bought Xsigo Systems.

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The promise of such appliances is that most of the set-up and wiring is done by the vendor at the factory, leaving customers with a minimum of configuration work to get the box running, reducing the room for error.

Other vendors, such as NetApp and EMC, already offer pre-integrated systems for virtualization. Oracle contends it will have an edge because it owns the virtualization stack it uses, including the OS, hypervisor and applications.

"We're the only vendor that has full-stack capabilities," said Adam Hawley, Oracle's senior director of product management for virtualization.

The Virtual Compute Appliance differs from the high-end "Exa" machines that Oracle already sells. Those systems, like the Exadata Database Machine, are designed for maximum performance, while the virtualization appliance is designed for "extreme ease of use," Hawley said.

It can also run third-party software, which the Exa machines generally can't. Customers can run pretty much "all the viable x86 operating systems," Hawley said, including Oracle Linux, Oracle Solaris, Red Hat Linux and Windows.

Oracle offers around 120 virtual templates for its applications, to make loading them on the machine easier. It estimates how much CPU, memory and other resources the various workloads need, and the machine configures itself to those specs when the templates are loaded.

The base system, which starts at US$265,000 according to an Oracle price list, includes two dual-socket Xeon servers for running the management software, and another two to get started with the compute load. Customers can add more server nodes up to a maximum of 25 in a rack, and they're detected and configured automatically when they're plugged in, according to Oracle.

The base system also includes an Oracle ZFS 7320 storage appliance. It hosts the management environment and can store some of the compute load, but Oracle expects most customers to need an external storage array as well. That can be another ZFS appliance or an iSCSI system from a different vendor.

Two Oracle Fabric Interconnect F1-15s connect to each server, providing a redundant connectivity and about 40 gigabits per second throughput. There are also two Infiniband switches for connecting to other servers in the rack.

The preinstalled software includes Oracle VM, Oracle VM Manager, and the software-defined networking software from Xsigo. Oracle did a webcast Tuesday to launch the product.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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