Overview of Oracle VM

By: Michael New, Edward Whalen, Matthew Burke


In recent years, virtualization has changed the way we look at computing. Instead of using many different computer systems for different tasks, with virtualization, we can use a single system to host many applications. Not only has virtualization increased in popularity, but it has also sparked new hardware CPU innovation, including Intel VT-x and AMD-V technologies. Over the next few years, virtualization will be a core technology in every data center. Oracle VM, although a relatively new entry in the virtualization market, is based on stable and proven technology.
Oracle is relatively new to the virtualization arena, but Oracle’s technology is based on a relatively long history of virtualization. Oracle VM was introduced at the Oracle World conference in 2007. The product was made available for download shortly after that. This was touted by Oracle as one of their largest software announcements in the history of the company. The Oracle VM product consists of two major components: the Oracle VM Server and the Oracle VM Manager.

Oracle VM 3.x was introduced at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in 2011. This product introduced a completely new user interface and provides a more stable platform for virtualization

History of Oracle VM

Oracle VM is a relative newcomer, considering that the biggest competition, VMware, was introduced in 1998 and is majority owned by EMC. VMware introduced their first virtualization product for the desktop in 1999 and their first server product in 2001. It was really not until 2003 that VMware introduced the VMware Virtual Center, the VMotion and Virtual SMP technology. This is what made virtualization a viable product for server consolidation in the Enterprise. Prior to that, VMware was primarily used only as a test or training platform. In 2004 VMware introduced their 64-bit support. This is also the year that EMC acquired VMware.

As with Oracle VM, VMware is supported on the Intel/AMD x86 platforms only. This in part has led to the race for both Intel and AMD to focus their efforts on providing an extensive set of features that optimize virtualization on their platforms. With both Oracle VM and VMware, fully virtualized systems are supported. In addition, Oracle VM supports paravirtualization, whereas the underlying operating system realizes that it is running on a virtual system and makes intelligent choices based on that knowledge. VMware provides replacement drivers for video and I/O, but it isn’t the same as paravirtualization. Both products also support any OS that will run on the x86 platform in a fully virtualized guest

The third major player in the virtualization market is Microsoft with their Hyper-V product. The Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization solution is a hypervisor-based virtualization product that was introduced in 2008. This product appears to be primarily targeted to the Microsoft Windows environment.
One final player in the virtualization market is Citrix. Citrix recently purchased XenSource, but isn’t pushing it as a dominant platform in virtualization. Citrix tends to focus more on the desktop replacement rather than on the virtualization environment.
These products do not represent the entirety of the virtualization market and virtualization products, but represent the main competition to Oracle VM. There are many other virtualization products, including hardware virtualization, that will not be covered here.

Even though Oracle VM is a relative newcomer to virtualization, the technology is not. Oracle VM is based on the Xen hypervisor, which is a proven and stable technology. So, in order to understand the history of Oracle VM, you must first look at the history of the Xen hypervisor

History of Xen

The Xen virtualization product began around the same time as VMware. It started at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and released its first version in 2003. The leader of the project then went on to found XenSource. Unlike both VMware and Hyper-V, Xen is maintained by the open source community under the GNU General Public License. In 2007 XenSource was acquired by Citrix Systems.
Whereas VMware and Hyper-V only support the x86 architecture, Xen supports x86, x86_64, Itanium, and Power-PC architectures. The Xen architecture is based on a hypervisor, as mentioned earlier in this chapter. This hypervisor originally only allowed Linux, NetBSD, and Solaris operating systems to operate in a paravirtualized environment. However, since the introduction of the virtualization support in hardware and Xen 3.0, unmodified OSs can now operate in Xen.

Oracle VM 2.2 is based on the Xen 3.4 kernel. In order to fully appreciate where the Xen 3.4 kernel is, let’s look at a brief history of the Xen hypervisor. The following table gives a brief timeline of the Xen history:

Date
Development
2002
Development begins on the Xen hypervisor.
2003
The first release of Xen was made available.
2004
The second release of Xen was made available and the first Xen developers’ summit was held.
2005
XenSource was founded and version 3.0 was released
2006
XenEnterprise was released. This was also when Linux began adding enhancements for virtualization. This was also when VMware and Microsoft begin adopting paravirtualization as well. In addition, this year marked the launch of the Amazon EC2 (Enterprise Cloud 2).
2007
XenSource was acquired by Citrix. Oracle announced Oracle VM based on the Xen hypervisor. The original version was Oracle VM 2.1.
2008
Xen began showing up as embedded in Flash.
2009
Oracle released Oracle VM 2.2 based on Xen 3.4.
2011
Oracle released Oracle VM 3.x at the Oracle OpenWorld conference.
 This long history of Xen virtualization has allowed Oracle to quickly enter the virtualization market with a stable and proven technology.

Components of Oracle VM

Oracle VM is made up of two main components: the VM Server and the VM Manager. The VM Server is the hardware on which the hypervisor and virtual machines reside. The VM Server is made up of a Domain 0 or Dom0, which hosts the VM Agent and virtual machines. It is the Agent that communicates with the VM Manager in order to configure and manage the VM Server and VM Server Farm.
The VM Manager is a piece of software that runs on any Linux system and is used to manage the VM Server Farm. From the VM Manager, both the VM Servers and virtual machines are managed. The VM Manager is a required component, even if OEM Cloud Control is being used to manage the VM Server Farm. OEM Cloud Control uses the VM Manager via an API to manage the VM Server Farm.

Oracle VM Templates

One of the main advantages of Oracle VM is the vast library of preconfigured VM templates that are available from Oracle’s Web site. These templates can be downloaded and installed on Oracle VM, thus allowing for quick deployment of virtual machines that include preconfigured software, such as Oracle E-Business Suite or PeopleSoft.
Oracle is constantly updating the library of templates. Please check Oracle’s Web site to get the latest list of templates that are available for Oracle VM.

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