eSTEP: Virtualization@Oracle (Part 3: Oracle VM Server for x86)

After the SPARC virtualization coverage in January we will now cover the x86 side by looking at the

Oracle VM Server for x86

Oracle VM Server for x86 is a technology that’s been inside Oracle even before the Sun acquisition, and is a virtualization product based on the Xen hypervisor.

Just like its SPARC counterpart it is a thin Type-1 Hypervisor and performs Hardware Virtualization on a x86-based system and uses para-virtualization.

To put it into perspective, let’s reuse the image from the first article:



As we can see and has been mentioned above, there is a similar product called Oracle VM Server for SPARC, which was covered in the last episode. Some of the general remarks there also apply to Oracle VM Server for x86, so, even if you’re only interested in the x86-side of things, it’s a good idea to recheck that last episode.

To start with the description, I shamelessly copied the introduction section from the docs at: http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E20065_01/doc.30/e18549/oraclevm.htm#CACJHBGJ which reads:

Oracle VM is a platform that provides a fully equipped environment with all the latest benefits of virtualization technology. Oracle VM enables you to deploy operating systems and application software within a supported virtualization environment. The components of Oracle VM are shown below:



  • Oracle VM Manager: Provides the command line interface or shell, as well as the graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI is an Application Development Framework (ADF) web application you use simply through your browser to manage Oracle VM Servers, virtual machines, and resources. Use Oracle VM Manager to:

    • Configure and manage Oracle VM Servers
    • Configure and manage networks
    • Configure and manage storage
    • Configure and manage resources such as virtual machine images, virtual machine templates, assemblies, and installation media
    • Create virtual machines from installation media, a virtual machine template, an assembly, or a virtual machine image
    • Manage virtual machines, including powering on and off, deleting, and live migrating
    • Import virtual machines created with Oracle VM or another solution for server virtualization


  • Oracle VM Server: A managed virtualization environment providing a lightweight, secure, server platform which runs virtual machines. At least one Oracle VM Server is required, but several are needed to take advantage of clustering. Oracle VM Server is based upon an updated version of the underlying Xen hypervisor technology, and includes Oracle VM Agent. It also includes a Linux kernel with support for a broad array of devices, file systems, and software RAID volume management. The Linux kernel is run as dom0 to manage one or more domU virtual machines, each of which could be Linux, Oracle Solaris, or Microsoft Windows.

Going back to the terminology and order used in the last episode, we still need to provide some information on the


Hypervisor

in use here. Xen started as a university project and its architecture is similar to the architecture of the logical domains on SPARC, with one important difference. On the SPARC side the hypervisor is part of the OBP, whereas on the x86-side the hypervisor is a separate software entity and needs to be installed as a complete system directly from CD/DVD onto the server. This is usually just a matter of a few minutes. Once that’s done, the virtualization server platform is available. After that we need to look at the


Management

side of things. Also unlike the OVM Server for SPARC approach here we need an additional management server called OVM Manager. Contrary to the way the server part is installed, the manager part is installed on top of an already installed operating system.

Both installation steps (Server and Manager) are described in detail in the documentation (link at end). Also the usage of OVM Manager is described there in detail.


Types of domains

In the last episode we had been describing different types of domains. Here, there is no such distinction, we’re only dealing with the dom0 (Control, Service and I/O Domain) and a domU (Guest Domain) (definitions see last episode).

The ease of use is even more simplified by additional tools like “OVM Templates” or “Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder”.


OVM Templates

OVM Templates are pre-installed and pre-configured ready-to-run images of diverse software stacks. These can also be downloaded (currently more than 90 such templates exist) directly from the same page were Oracle VM for x86 can be downloaded (link below). With this it gets real easy to setup and run for example a single Oracle Database server in less than 15 minutes. Download, import into OVM Manager, deploy and run.

Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder

In many cases single server environments aren’t enough, as multi-tier environments consist of many servers. So, the Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder is the tool to create such multi-virtual-server environments out of single systems, and allows such an assembly to be exported as one single building block and then be imported into OVM Manager. This then makes even the management of complex multi-tier environments very easy.

Things to consider

With features like Server Pools, virtual network switches and more, the setup and management of large virtualization environments gets complex. Therefore again here careful planning is needed. Specifically careful evaluation and TCO and/or ROI analysis is a good thing. Keep in mind, that over time the underlying infrastructure becomes more and more a commodity, therefore elements on higher levels become more and more important in the decision making progress and getting the “commodity” part from the same vendor supplying the higher level elements might become an advantage.

Benefits

  • Easy installation and setup

  • No licenses needed

  • OVM Manager included free of charge

  • Support included in Oracle HW system support or separately
    available for non-Oracle Hardware

  • Ease of use due to templates

  • Physical-to-virtual migration/conversion tools available

  • Up to 128 virtual CPUs per virtual machine

  • Up to 1TB RAM per virtual machine

  • Up to 160 CPUs per physical server

  • Up to 2 TB RAM per physical server

  • Up to 128 virtual machines per physical server

  • Cold, warm and hot (live) migration possible

  • Accepted as licensing-limit/boundary (Hard Partitioning) by Oracle

  • All Oracle software certified

  • Many different guest OSes supported

  • Para-virtualized drivers for Microsoft Windows included


Conclusion

Oracle VM for x86 offers a complete, easy-to-use and affordable environment for all server virtualization requirements.

With that we'd like to close this article on Oracle VM Server for x86 and hope we've kept you eager to read the ones coming in the following newsletters.

With that we'd like to close this article on Oracle VM Server for SPARC and hope we've kept you eager to read the ones coming in the following newsletters.


Further Reading

http://www.oracle.com/us/technologies/virtualization/oraclevm/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xen

http://xen.org/

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/documentation/vm-096300.html

http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E20065_01/doc.30/e18549/oraclevm.htm


Download

https://edelivery.oracle.com/linux

This series already had the following articles:

  • December 2011: Introduction to Virtualization (Matthias Pfützner)
  • January 2012: Oracle VM Server for SPARC (Matthias Pfützner)

The series will continue as follows (tentative):

  • March 2012: Oracle Solaris Zones and Linux Containers (Detlef Drewanz)
  • April 2012: Resource Management as Enabling Technology for Virtualization
    (Detlef Drewanz)
  • May 2012: Network Virtualization (Detlef Drewanz)
  • June 2012: Oracle VM VirtualBox (Detlef Drewanz)
  • July 2012: Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) (Matthias Pfützner)
  • August 2012: OpsCenter as Management Tool for Virtualization (Matthias Pfützner)

If you have questions, feel free to contact me: Matthias Pfützner

Read more:

<<< Part 2: Oracle VM Server for SPARC
>>> Part 4: Oracle Solaris Zones and Linux Containers
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