The Top Five Virtualization Vendors: Page 3

Posted December 26, 2007

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

(Page 3 of 3)

4. Novell

Location: Waltham, MA

Why it’s in the top five: Somebody had to come in at the number four slot, so why not Novell? The truth is that the virtualization market is dominated by VMware. Neither Citrix nor Microsoft has captured even 10% of the market, and everyone below them is a niche player at best. Discussing the four and five positions is more of a prediction about what could happen in coming years, rather than an assessment of what’s going on today.

What to watch for in 2008: Will Novell gain any traction in the virtualization market? Novell is firmly entrenched in the open-source camp, so its principal competition is with Citrix, rather than VMware or Microsoft, which are both Novell partners. Since the Novell offering leverages Xen, it’s all about what happens above the kernel level.

Virtualization is part of Novell’s larger data-center strategy, and part of that strategy is the support for heterogeneous environments. This is not uncommon, with most vendors supporting Linux and Windows side by side. Novell throws NetWare into the mix, which doesn’t seem like much but is a signal that Novell intends to support broad heterogeneous environments, not just Windows and Linux.

“What Novell has is a number of good partnerships,” Wolf said. “They’ve also been aggressive with upcoming virtualization technologies, and Novell has quietly achieved some of the virtualization platform milestones.” For instance, Novell was the first vendor to integrate Xen into a Linux distribution (rather than as a separate hypervisor).

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5. Oracle

Location: Redwood Shores, CA

Why it’s in the top five: Read this same category for Novell and substitute “Oracle” for “Novell.” The same holds true. Wolf from the Burton Group said that he would have put Sun Sun in this spot, but it’s really a toss up.

“Technologically, the Sun Solaris containers have reached a pretty good maturity point. Long-term, they’re moving into the Xen space with XVM, and they’ve already partnered with Microsoft, so there will be a good exchange of device drivers.”

Wolf noted that Oracle is more of a vendor to pay attention to down the road, but the fact is that the same is true of Sun. Why Oracle, then? Basically, because their approach is different from other virtualization vendors.

It’s a dubious, odd approach, but it’s worth taking a look at. Oracle’s influence on the virtualization space may be more about how they prod their competitors than what they actually deliver, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.

What to watch for in 2008: Will Oracle’s release of its own hypervisor, Oracle VM, prompt VMware to go back to basics and start singing the praises of its own hypervisor again? Lately, there’s been a growing notion that the hypervisor is a commodity.

“When you peel back the technologies and look at how they work, say between VMware and Xen, they don’t have equal features,” Wolf said. “There is value in the hypervisor. I think you’ll see VMware start reminding people of that soon.” Chen from the Yankee Group is dismissive of Oracle’s virtualization play. “They do have their own hypervisor, true. It’s Xen-based and not much different than any other Xen-based hypervisor – except for the fact that it only runs Oracle. This doesn’t make sense to me. If I were a customer, I wouldn’t touch it.”

Wolf is more forgiving. He argues that having another hypervisor to choose from is a good thing, and many Oracle customers will like the idea of having a one-stop shop for Oracle applications, operating system (Oracle Enterprise Linux) and virtualization.

However, don’t expect a lot of traction anytime soon. The adoption of OVM will likely mirror that of Oracle Enterprise Linux, which isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. “No one is going out and buying OEL and running a file server on it,” Wolf said. “If they buy OEL, they’re just doing it to run Oracle database applications. OVM will probably follow that same path.”

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