Oracle becomes sponsor of OpenStack Foundation

Oracle says it knows customers don't want to be locked into proprietary cloud management tools

Oracle is now a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation and plans to weave parts of the open-source infrastructure platform into its own products, saying it will give customers more flexibility and options for managing clouds.

The products in question include the Solaris OS, Oracle's Linux distribution, Oracle VM, Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance, Oracle's IaaS (infrastructure as a service) offering, and ZS3 Series, Axiom and StorageTek systems, according to Tuesday's announcement.

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Oracle also plans to "achieve OpenStack compatibility" with its Exalogic Elastic Cloud application server appliance as well as its Compute Cloud and Storage Cloud services.

To goal is to give customers the ability to use OpenStack as a management layer for clouds based on Oracle's products, according to the announcement.

"We understand our customers need to have common management interfaces, rather than being locked into proprietary ones," said Markus Flierl, vice president, Oracle Solaris, in a statement. "OpenStack allows them to do that, both for more traditional general-purpose IaaS environments, as well as our Oracle Engineered Systems."

Oracle joins a wealth of other tech companies that support OpenStack, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Red Hat and Dell.

However, despite the detailed product integration plans Oracle announced for OpenStack, as a corporate sponsor it is making a relatively minor financial contribution to the project.

Established companies must pay $25,000 per year to become a corporate sponsor, compared to between $50,000 and $200,000 per year for gold sponsorships and $500,000 for platinum sponsorships. HP, IBM and Red Hat are in the last category, which also requires the equivalent of two full-time employees contributing to OpenStack.

Still, Oracle's announcement is significant for a number of reasons, according to Michael Coté research director, infrastructure software at the 451 Group.

"It's a big deal for Oracle to join," Coté said. "They're a bit late to the party, but the party is still in its beginnings, so no problem there."

"The thing Oracle will bring is the Solaris community," Coté added. "While that world has been declining in recent years as Linux vendors and their friends aggressively go after Unix-to-Linux deals, the Solaris ecosystem is still big and important."

"To me, the OpenStack communities' big challenge now is crossing the chasm from its early pool of users and developers to more mainstream users and buyers," Coté said.

"Many of the installs and cases for OpenStack that you hear over and over are from highly sophisticated and specialized teams at companies, just like early Linux users," he added. "Companies like Oracle and IBM need to come into the community and bring their mainstream users to the platform."

Oracle has at least two goals in mind by joining OpenStack, according to Coté.

For one thing, it wants to retain customers while giving them access to new technologies, he said. "Part of the tragedy of Sun was that Sun executives fended off Linux for far too long," Coté said. "The eventually did the obvious thing and ran Linux on Solaris x86 gear, but by that time customers had left and it was too late. Any large systems vendor, like Oracle, is in the same spot. You can't beat cloud, so you need to join it or lose customers in the years ahead."

In addition, "they could genuinely use the technology to build new products and offerings, for their own public cloud offerings and other products," Coté said. "Also, Oracle has always been trying to get more and more into general systems management, and this is a good time."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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