Is Oracle VM, built on the open source Xen hypervisor, a true market alternative to VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization? And will Oracle leap beyond virtualization to support Software Defined Networking (SDN)? Perhaps it's time to rethink those questions -- especially as a new Oracle Desktop Virtualization offering (called Oracle Secure Global Desktop) reaches the market. Here's the update, including an exclusive interview with Oracle Senior VP Wim Coekaerts.

Let's start with the hard news: Oracle Secure Global Desktop 5.0 arrived today, allowing anywhere access to cloud and on-premises applications. The platform supports enterprise applications, desktops, notebooks, and tablets thanks to the HTML5 standard.

The VAR Guy doesn't know how Oracle's desktop as a service (DaaS) strategy stacks up vs. VMware and Microsoft. But our resident blogger respects the executive who's driving Oracle's virtualization strategy.

The Guy to Know

The mystery man, Senior VP Wim Coekaerts, is well-known within Oracle circles. Last year, he gave The VAR Guy an exclusive look at Oracle's Linux strategy. And in recent days, Coekaerts returned to the briefing room to describe the past, present and future of Oracle VM -- while also discussing SDN and OpenFlow just a bit.

Does Oracle want to dominate the virtualization market? Not necessarily. The real goal is to make sure Oracle VM is the best virtual machine for running the Oracle software stack -- Solaris, Oracle Linux, database, middleware and applications.

Getting Started

The seeds for Oracle VM were planted in 2005 or so, when Oracle Linux was also under development. At the time, Oracle OnDemand, the company's hosting business, ran each customer on a separate physical server -- and each server had a 5 percent to 10 percent utilization rate. So Oracle VM was all about consolidating OnDemand customers onto fewer servers.

"At the time VMware was pretty much the only [option] in the market," said Coekaerts. "We were not interested in paying the fees since the [VMware] licenses are about the same as a physical server. Instead of writing our own hypervisor, Xen was already out there." So, Oracle leveraged Xen to build Oracle VM.

"We set out to create a virtualization product for our OnDemand team," said Coekaerts. "But we realized it could be a product, too." By around 2007, Oracle VM was born, giving Oracle customers one throat to choke for operating systems, applications and virtualization.

Fast forward to 2009, and Oracle acquired Virtual Iron -- a virtualization management company. That deal paved the way for Oracle VM3, which arrived in 2011 with improved management capabilities. Around the same time Oracle delivered Enterprise Manager 12c, which gave channel partners and customers a single dashboard to manage Oracle's entire hardware and software stack.

Familiar Story

Gradually, Oracle VM has popped up across the company's product and cloud services portfolio. Yes, Oracle Cloud, Exalogic and Oracle Database Appliance leverage Oracle VM. "Our message is clear," said Coekaerts. "We trust it, so customers should trust it."

Coekaerts also see the worlds of Oracle VM and Software Defined Networking (SDN) converging. In theory, SDN allows channel partners and corporate IT managers to more effectively maintain networks. Many companies are promoting OpenFlow as an SDN approach for next-generation network management. But in the meantime, Coekaerts says, there's the traditional world of networks, servers and storage -- which can't be ripped and replaced.

"SDN needs to live in both of those worlds -- the present and the future," he said. "With Oracle VM, you can address SDN in your existing infrastructure. As OpenFlow [matures] we’ll get more involved."

That last statement begs plenty of follow-up questions. But alas, this latest interview with Coekaerts has come to an end...