As Published In
Oracle Magazine
March/April 2008

COMMENT: In The Field


Let's Get Virtual

By Ari Kaplan

The Oracle VM virtual server means simpler and cheaper virtualization solutions.

Virtualization is an interesting concept, with many applications. By its broadest definition, virtualization means abstracting real, physical computer resources. For example, we can treat many separate physical hard drives as a single virtual storage resource. Or we can regard a single physical server as many virtual servers. The advantages to using virtualization include simplifying management and reducing costs.

Let's focus on server virtualization: treating a single physical server as many logical servers. By doing this, we can assign existing and new tasks to existing and new virtual servers, without buying, installing, running, and maintaining more physical servers. This is possible because most servers aren't running at full capacity all of the time. In fact, many servers have the capability to run multiple virtual servers without breaking a sweat.

Virtual servers save money. Not just the purchase price, but the installation, placement, configuration, power, cooling, and management of another physical machine.

Virtual servers also give you more-agile systems. If you had to get a new physical server up and running manually, configuring it exactly the same as an already-running server—with all the patches, directories, users, privileges, and so on—it would be tricky to do without error. However, with virtual servers, you can preconfigure a virtual server template—specifying all the customized details about the server and the software it will run—that you can keep on tap until you need it. Then you can deploy the virtual server as necessary, confident that it will run as expected. And to users interacting with such a system, each virtual server behaves like a real (physical) server.

Until now, Oracle administrators who wanted to implement virtualization solutions had to use third-party software. But the availability of Oracle VM gives administrators the opportunity to turn to a single vendor for the virtual server, operating system (Oracle Enterprise Linux), database, middleware, and applications. Clearly, having a single provider simplifies support responsibilities.

Cost savings are also an important aspect of Oracle VM. Oracle VM is free to download, and support is available on a per-system basis. Oracle VM includes Xen's open source server software and a Web browser-based management console for creating, cloning, sharing, configuring, booting, and migrating virtual machines running on x86- and x86-64-based systems.

And it works. In my own experience, Oracle VM has been very useful, especially with testing. My company typically tests applications with a variety of hardware, a scenario that virtual servers make easy. We create preconfigured templates using virtual servers for specific purposes and applications. Employing these templates saves time in configuring computers for testing. We also avoid risks, since we're guaranteed that the testing environments are identical on different machines.

Next Steps


 READ more about Oracle VM

 VISIT the Virtualization Technology Center

 DOWNLOAD Oracle VM

 CONTRIBUTE to the Oracle VM wiki

For administrators who use third-party virtualization software, switching to Oracle VM makes sense. Just removing a non-Oracle component from the stack is attractive for simplifying support and management responsibilities. The cost savings will be welcome also: it's not often that you get to reduce operating costs in an existing system. Plus, Oracle states that Oracle VM is three times more efficient than comparable server virtualization products, so Oracle VM may wring more processing out of the virtual system as a whole.

For those who have shied away from virtual servers before, Oracle VM may present a good opportunity to try out virtual technology. You don't have to dive in and virtualize your whole production system. But your developers and testers may be grateful for the chance to simplify their procedures and standardize their development and test environments. From there, you can add virtual servers where it seems appropriate.

Whether you move from an existing virtual server to Oracle VM or are trying it for the first time, the benefits are real, and not just in measurable quantities like cost savings and performance. Using preconfigured virtual images—whether for production or development—guarantees a uniform configuration for all your systems. This one change can simplify debugging problems, researching improvements, and planning future changes. It may not show up in any metrics, but having a uniform configuration guarantee can make progress a virtual certainty.

 



Ari Kaplan (ari_kaplan@ioug.org) is president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and a senior consultant at Datalink. He founded Expand Beyond Corporation, a leader in mobile IT software. He has been involved in Oracle technology since 1992.


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