Oracle Said to Mull Virtual Iron Bid


It's always been a puzzle to me why Oracle has not been more aggressive in the virtualization space. It seemed like a natural fit for a company that built its reputation on business productivity solutions for top-tier organizations.

Oh sure, it's dipped its toe in the waters with products like the Oracle VM Management Pack, but it has stayed largely on the sidelines as the likes of VMware, Microsoft and now even Red Hat battle it out for the hypervisor market.

But that looks like it's about to change if the rumors purporting an imminent acquisition of Virtual Iron Software are true. Apparently, analyst Katherine Egbert of Jeffries & Co. is hearing through the grapevine that a deal is in the works. Oracle chief Larry Ellison is said to be anxious to keep VI's technology out of the hands of competitors like Red Hat, even while he sees it as a good fit with his own VM management portfolio.

As the smallest of the virtualization vendors out there, it's not likely Virtual Iron will demand a premium price. Virtual Iron recently got a cash infusion of close to $20 million from long-time supporters Highland Capital Partners, Matrix Partners and several others, bringing total investment into the company over the past five years to about $65 million. It's full value is unknown since, as a private company, it is not required to disclose financial results.

The company also has a new release of its Xen-based hypervisor, Extended Enterprise Edition 4.5, which offers a number of high-end capabilities like role-based access control, internal virtual network switching that cuts down on the need for physical adapters; and new scalability features aimed at making the system more palatable to large organizations. Virtual Iron generates most of its business catering to smaller organizations that lack the capital and resources to install VMware or Microsoft/Citrix.

Another key feature that might pique the interest of Oracle and its customers is the LivePower system, which lets users define their own usage limits for a server's physical resources. If usage falls below a certain percentage, then the VMs are shifted to another server and the underutilized machine is shut down. The system also works in reverse, sending VMs on highly provisioned servers to other machines to spread workloads during peak usage periods.

From Oracle's point of view, it would be hard to pass up on Virtual Iron. There's a lot a software company can do with its own hypervisor, particularly one that already has ties to your basic middleware platforms. With the outlook for advanced business applications growing grim as the economy continues to falter, virtualization may be just the lifeline Oracle is looking for.