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Oracle VM Review
This product is directly related to hardware, so it is a complete technology with hardware, operating system, and virtualization software.

Valuable Features

  • Bare metal virtualization
  • SR-IOV
  • Live migration
  • Hardware compliance

Improvements to My Organization

This product is directly related to hardware, so it is a complete technology with hardware, operating system, and virtualization software.

The following are attributes that have improved my organization -

  • Robustness
  • Security
  • Scalability
  • High performance

We have been using IBM POWER hardware, AIX and PowerVM. We were happy with the technology, but switched to Oracle because of cost issues. The new technology is as robust, secure, scalable as IBM. The performance is much better than IBM POWER7 but we did not have a chance to compare POWER8 with new SPARC technology. IBM POWER technologies came one and a half years after Oracle and thus IBM lost a big customer.

Room for Improvement

  • The SR-IOV technology should be improved more as it only supports basic functions.
  • It does not have a graphical maintenance screen. The OVM manager interface has so little functionality for managing control domains only. It is not a big problem if you have experienced administrators, but it would be nice to have a beautiful screen to use for everything which guides you into not making mistakes.
  • Error handling takes the safest way, but safest way may cause business discontinuity. A few bad experiences occurred in this manner and should be fixed. For example, if you restart the server and resources assigned to virtual systems are more than available, it removes all virtual system definitions and resource assignments like WWNs. You have to redefine everything from backups. This takes time and the system is out of service in the meanwhile.
  • Virtual WWNs were lost in one of the PDOMs while it was in maintenance mode. The system continued with other servers, but all disk access paths had to be re-defined from scratch for some LDOMs. It was so annoying because this was not accepted as a bug by Oracle.

Use of Solution

We've used it for two years.

Deployment Issues

We had no issues with the deployment.

Stability Issues

We had errors, but they were fixed. The hardware and software work perfectly with the new SPARC technology.

Scalability Issues

We had no issues with scaling it for our needs.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We have experienced resources and we made a checklist of what we did with IBM and how to do it in SPARC. After that, we did not need much service and support. Software downloading and bug fix is pretty good with Oracle. We have had quick responses for case tickets from the available time zones.

Previous Solutions

We used IBM PowerVM on AIX servers. The main driver was changing the hardware. Both technologies are hardware specific. So we migrated from POWER hardware, AIX, and PowerVM to SPARC hardware, and OVM for SPARC Solaris.

I can compare triple-to-triple and none has any serious disadvantage to the other. Changing the technology was not a technical decision, but we as technical people declared that they are functionally equal.

Initial Setup

The initial setup was straightforward and no more complex than PowerVM.

Implementation Team

Our main effort was using in-house resources. The vendor team only supported training.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

We consolidated lots of databases onto two big iron servers and got benefits from our database licenses. Oracle charges double for IBM server cores if you are using the Oracle database. The government procurement process may not care about price competition, so we defined our requirements, and bidding was made by another organization. IBM and Oracle bidding brought lower prices for the initial procurement cost. Maintenance costs are directly related to the initial price.

RISC hardware may seem more expensive than Intel CISC, but TCO was cheaper with more robust hardware with double performance. So the hardware technology was the main issue. We also decided that engineered systems are not suitable for complex business scenarios.

Other Advice

  • Plan everything at the beginning. Do not change plans after you start.
  • You must know what you are doing. Never leave any responsibility to the vendor or a third-party contractor.
  • Write what you do, do what you write. Never leave any detail undocumented.
  • Do something, validate documentation, then delete everything and make someone else do the same thing with the documentation.
  • Security becomes a big issue after setup. Plan your security requirements during design. The vendor does not care about it. It cannot be added later.
  • Plan your disaster recovery requirements and make your designs accordingly.

It seemed to be a great and risky adventure to migrate from IBM Power to Oracle SPARC, but we did the migration in 15 minutes in a complex environment with Oracle databases, SAP application servers, and in-house Java applications. If you see that it brings advantages, do not get scared -- just do it, nothing happens, and it works. You get a new experience.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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