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Oracle, Xsigo, VMware, Nicira, SDN and IOV: IO IO It's Off to Work They Go

Technology buzzwords and buzz terms can often be a gray area leaving plenty of room for marketers and PR folks to run with

In case you missed it, VMware recently announced spending $1.05 billion USD acquiring startup Nicira for their virtualization and software technology that enables software defined networks (SDN). Also last week Oracle was in the news getting its hands slapped by for making misleading advertisement performance claims vs. IBM.

On the heals of VMware buying Nicira for software defined networking (SDN) or what is also known as IO virtualization (IOV) and virtualized networking, Oracle is now claiming their own SDN capabilities with their announcement of intent to acquire Xsigo. Founded in 2004, Xsigo has a hardware platform combined with software to enable attachment of servers to different Fibre Channel (SAN) and Ethernet based (LAN) networks with their version of IOV.

Now its Oracle who has announced that it will be acquiring IO, networking, virtualization hardware and software vendor Xsigo founded in 2004 for an undisclosed amount. Xsigo has made its name in the IO virtualization (IOV) and converged networking along with server and storage virtualization space over the past several years including partnerships with various vendors.

Buzz word bingo

Technology buzzwords and buzz terms can often be a gray area leaving plenty of room for marketers and PR folks to run with. Case in point AaaS, Big data, Cloud, Compliance, Green, IaaS, IOV, Orchestration, PaaS and Virtualization among other buzzword bingo or XaaS topics. Since Xsigo has been out front in messaging and industry awareness around IO networking convergence of Ethernet based Local Area Networks (LANs) and Fibre Channel (FC) based Storage Area Networks (SANs), along with embracing InfiniBand, it made sense for them to play to their strength which is IO virtualization (aka IOV).

Open Networking Forum and OpenFlow

Too me and among others (here and here and here) it is interesting that Xsigo has not laid claims to being part of the software defined networking (SDN) movement or the affiliated OpenFlow networking initiatives as happens with Nicira (and Oracle for that matter). In the press release that the Oracle marketing and PR folks put out on a Monday morning, some of the media and press, both trade industry, financial and general news agency took the Oracle script hook line and sinker running with it.

What was effective is how well many industry trade pubs and their analysts simply picked up the press release story and ran with it in the all too common race to see who can get the news or story out first, or before it actually happens in some cases.

Image of media, news papers

Too be clear, not all pubs jumped including some of those mentioned by Greg Knieriemen (aka @knieriemen) over at SpeakinginTech highlights. I know some who took the time to call, ask around, leverage their journalistic training to dig, research and find out what this really meant vs. simply taking and running with the script. An example of one of those calls that I had was with Beth Pariseu (aka @pariseautt) that you can read her story here and here.

Interesting enough, the Xsigo marketers had not embraced the SDN term sticking with the more known (at least in some circles) VIO and VIO descriptions. What is also interesting is just last week Oracle marketing had their hands slapped by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) NAD after IBM complained about unfair performance based advertisements on ExaData.

Oracle Exadata

Hmm, I wonder if the SDN police or somebody else will lodge a similar complaint with the BBB on behalf of those doing SDN?

Both Oracle and Xsigo along with other InfiniBand (and some Ethernet and PCIe) focused vendors are members of the Open Fabric initiative, not to be confused with the group working on OpenFlow.

StorageIO industry trends and perspectives

Here are some other things to think about:

Oracle has a history of doing different acquisitions without disclosing terms, as well as doing them based on earn outs such as was the case with Pillar.

Oracle use Ethernet in the servers and appliances as well as has been an adopter of InfiniBand primarily for node to node communication, however also for server to application.

Oracle is also an investor in Mellanox the folks that make InfiniBand and Ethernet products.

Oracle has built various stacks including ExaData (Database machine), Exalogic, Exalytics and Database Appliance in addition to their 7000 series of storage systems.

Oracle has done earlier virtualization related acquisitions including Virtual Iron.

Oracle has a reputation with some of their customers who love to hate them for various reasons.

Oracle has a reputation of being aggressive, even by other market leader aggressive standards.

Integrated solution stacks (aka stack wars) or what some remember as bundles continues and Oracle has many solutions.

What will happen to Xsigo as you know it today (besides what the press releases are saying).

While Xsigo was not a member of the Open Networking Forum (ONF), Oracle is.

Xsigo is a member of the Open Fabric Alliance along with Oracle, Mellanox and others interested in servers, PCIe, InfiniBand, Ethernet, networking and storage.

StorageIO industry trends and perspectives

What's my take?

While there are similarities in that both Nicira and Xsigo are involved with IO Virtualization, what they are doing, how they are doing it, who they are doing it with along with where they can play vary.

Not sure what Oracle paid however assuming that it was in the couple of million dollars or less, cash or combination of stock, both they and the investors as well as some of the employees, friends and family's did ok.

Oracle also gets some intellectual property that they can combine with other earlier acquisitions via Sun and Virtual Iron along with their investment in InfiniBand (also now Ethernet) vendor Mellanox

Likewise, Oracle gets some extra technology that they can leverage in their various stacked or integrated (aka bundled) solutions for both virtual and physical environments.

For Xsigo customers the good news is that you now know who will be buying the company, however and should be questions about the future beyond what is being said in press releases.

Does this acquisition give Oracle a play in the software defined networking space like Nicira gives to VMware I would say no given their hardware dependency, however it does give Oracle some extra technology to play with.

Likewise while important and a popular buzzword topic (e.g. SDN), since OpenFlow comes up in conversations, perhaps that should be more of the focus vs. if a solution is all software or hardware and software.

StorageIO industry trends and perspectives

I also find it entertaining how last week the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and NAD (National Advertising Division) slapped Oracles hands after IBM complaints of misleading performance claims about Oracle ExaData vs. IBM. The reason I find it entertaining is not that Oracle had its hands slapped or that IBM complained to the BBB, rather how the Oracle marketers and PR folks came up with a spin around what could be called a proprietary SDN (hmm, pSDN ?) story feed it to the press and media who then ran with it.

Im not convinced that this is an all our launch of a war by Oracle vs. Cisco let alone any of the other networking vendors as some have speculated (makes for good headlines though). Instead Im seeing it as more of an opportunistic acquisition by Oracle most likely at a good middle of summer price. Now if Oracle really wanted to go to battle with Cisco (and others), then there are others to buy such as Brocade, Juniper, etc etc etc. However there are other opportunities for Oracle to be focused (or side tracked on right now).

Oh, lets also see what Cisco has to say about all of this which should be interesting.

Additional related links:
Data Center I/O Bottlenecks Performance Issues and Impacts
I/O, I/O, Its off to Virtual Work and VMworld I Go (or went)
I/O Virtualization (IOV) Revisited
Industry Trends and Perspectives: Converged Networking and IO Virtualization (IOV)
The function of XaaS(X) Pick a letter
What is the best kind of IO? The one you do not have to do
Why FC and FCoE vendors get beat up over bandwidth?

StorageIO industry trends and perspectives

If you are interested in learning more about IOV, Xisgo, or are having trouble sleeping, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here (I think thats enough links for now ;).

Ok, nuff said for now as I have probably requalified for being on the Oracle you know what list for not sticking to the story script, opps, excuse me, I mean press release message.

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

twitter @storageio

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

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