Oracle flexes muscle for Xen, open source

As server virtualization continues to grow in popularity in government data centers, enterprise software provider Oracle will increasingly put its weight behind Xen open-source virtualization software, Charles Phillips, president at Oracle, told GCN in a recent interview.

"We're big proponents of Linux and standard technologies, so we're going to put the time toward Xen," Phillips said. "Our strategy will be around Xen."

Server virtualization allows multiple operating systems to be run on one physical server. Through the network, the outside world sees multiple servers, yet they are all run by a single physical machine.

Xen is open-source virtualization software that relies on paravirtualization, a technique that involves placing hooks inside the operating system kernel to speed operations as they move from the guest OS through the host OS. As a result, Xen only works on the Linux kernel, not on Microsoft Windows, the source code of which is not open to outside developers.

Although there are numerous vendors of server virtualization software, including Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, the company best known for it is VMware, which is owned by EMC.

"We have not certified our products for VMWare," Phillips said, adding that "people do that on their own." Oracle will, instead, put more of its efforts behind Xen.

"Our strategy is to want something that is standard and not proprietary," he said.

Phillips said Oracle's needs for virtualization might be different than the needs of other software companies or end users, but he still sees it as an enabling technology.

The company's efforts at grid-enabling its software would benefit by Xen, he said. Adding a node to a grid cluster might still involve manual work, such as configuring the network addresses. Virtualization could help automate such processes, he said.

The company may be responding to user interest in Linux and open source. A recent survey by the Independent Oracle Users Group, done for its upcoming annual user conference, found that 52 percent of their members' organizations planned to increase their adoption of open-source software in the upcoming year.

Moreover, Oracle itself is one of the largest contributors to the development of the Linux kernel. A September survey of which companies contributed improvements to Linux showed that Oracle contributed 5.5 percent of the changes, trailing only Red Hat and IBM.

Last August, Citrix Systems purchased XenSource, which sells a commercially supported version of Xen.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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