Virtual Iron to Go Officially AWOL

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jul 29, 2009

For a while it seemed like Virtual Iron had a unique value proposition — solid, easy-to-use virtualization technology — Oracle clearly thought so, even if enterprises didn't move toward it with the same fervor they reserved for VMware. In mid-May Oracle announced its intent to acquire Virtual Iron and integrate the technology into Oracle VM, making use of its capacity management, power management, and integration capabilities.

Virtually Speaking: Oracle elaborates on its plans for Virtual Iron's product line. Not a pretty picture for many customers.

What it didn't elaborate on at that time was how the acquisition would impact Virtual Iron's product road map.

It quickly became apparent that there is no product road map.

According to itWorldCannada:
Almost immediately after purchasing the server virtualization vendor in May, CEO Larry Ellison and company decided to kill off the VI portfolio. The company made the announcement via a letter to VI sales partners, indicating that it was suspending development work and delivery of the product to new customers.

It later clarified its comments to let customers know it isn't planning to bail on supporting enterprises running Virtual Iron, but it won't be introducing new versions or improvements.

To the other virtualization vendors, this is the usual prime opportunity to pick up some new customers, and they aren't hesitating to do so. VMware is offering some significant discounts to bring the disaffected into its camp.

These efforts will likely gain more traction after Oracle's announcement last week, in which it revealed the details of Oracle VM, which — surprise, surprise — will be a cornerstone of the new virtualization environment.

This was a technology buy from the start. Virtual Iron has been a niche player pretty much out of the gate, and while its technology always received high accolades, the customer base never quite caught up (or on to its claimed value). It's not surprising therefore that Oracle is opting not to support two product families. It's cheaper to let the customers go than to develop for two separate product lines, one of which isn't core to its offerings. Oracle has enough legacy apps in its war chest (and will be picking up a few more, when its acquisition of Sun Microsystems is complete), and most of those apps deliver a solid ROI, which it's doubtful Virtual Iron would.

What is less clear is why Oracle is treating these customers as little more than pocket lint. With Virtual Iron's features rolling into Oracle VM 2.2, and subsequently 3.0 early next year, that is the next logical step. Yet Oracle wasted no time last week in saying that moving to Oracle VM will be more of a migration than simple software upgrade for Virtual Iron users. (Though it did say migration tools will be developed and offered.

Oracle is firmly established in the large enterprise space, yet it still has little more than a toe in the water in the current virtualization space. This, too, will change when its acquisition of Sun wraps up. Sun, after all offers a host of virtualization offerings, from Solaris Containers to VirtualBox.

Both technologies will enable Oracle to wade in deeper, regardless of whether Sun or Virtual Iron's customers remain stranded on the bank. And let's face it, both customer bases may prove to be throwaways for Oracle's deep pockets, and their absence in the long term may not be be a hole the Oracle predicts to be worth plugging.

The bigger and more ongoing question is how Oracle's current base, and presumably the sweet spot for 3.0, will react to the product and whether the inclusion of the acquired technology will result in a larger base in a marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded by the day.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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