Should the VDI world watch out for the new VDI solution by Oracle?
Last Friday I attended a VDI presentation from an Oracle (formally Sun) reseller on the brand new Oracle VDI solution. First of all, the audience was very different from the ‘usual virtualization’ crowd. A lot of former Sun enthusiasts, who have a very different view on solutions. This article is from my viewpoint. Not all participants of the meeting might agree with me.
The first statement from the Senior VDI manager: ‘ Oracle VDI is here to stay. It’s being heavily invested in. Larry Ellisson wants to be number 1 in the VDI market. Therefore, VDI has been positioned as a separate global business unit within Oracle.‘
The Oracle VDI solution is actually a Sun VDI solution, which Sun started to develop and was announced about 2 years ago. However, with the integration of Sun into Oracle going not quite as planned, the VDI solution has been delayed. The proposition is sort of a remake of the Sun Ray solution. A new solution with Oracle’s own hardware (Still branded Sun) and software. The new version will be including multimedia support and USB2 redirection. However it is mainly a software product.
Oracle positions the following products within the VDI market:
Oracle VDI Infrastructure
- Brokering, management, hosting, access in one
Oracle Secure Global Desktop
- High secure remote desktop or application publication
Oracle Sun Ray Clients
- Hardware or software client software (Windows, OSX, Linux)
The hardware clients consist of three new models:
- Sun Ray 3, will cost about 200 euro
- This is the standard thin client model
- Sun Ray 3+, will cost about 400 euro
- This is the advanced thin client model with dual monitor support
- Sun Ray 3i, will cost about 550 euro
- This is a LCD screen with an integrated standard client mode
All of these hardware models should have a ‘tested with VMware View’ sticker.
Besides the already available client software for all PC platforms, Oracle will be introducing the Sun Ray client for the iPad this summer.
The meeting is actually very interesting because as it turns out, a lot of support issues are not being resolved. Oracle and Sun support integration seems to have left some clients in the dark, even with paid and valid support contracts. So, there is a huge image problem to resolve here. As most participants (myself not included) have a lot of implementation experience with the Sun Ray solution, there is some talk about support issues that are not properly addressed. The impression I get is that the new version of the product isn’t quite ready yet but will be by the end of march. The real push by Oracle should start in June, as Oracle’s new fiscal year starts June 1st.
When it comes to performance, I can’t judge how the new solution will work. Oracle has developed a complete chain from a storage back-end all the way up to the access layer through mid-frame and databases. This integrated solution includes management, access, storage and application delivery. There is focus on chain selling the VDI solution, but Sun Ray can also work with VMware (View, vSphere) Citrix (XenDesktop) or Microsoft, although I think it’s RDP only. The main problem today with VDI, IOPS on storage, was not addressed.
Now, I was planning to write a portion on licensing and support costs, but after about 30 minutes of discussion about the licensing model and how it is supposed to work, I still have no clue. What I did notice was that resellers are only allowed to sell 1 year of Service and Support with their implementation, any further extension of the contract will be directly handled by Oracle. I think this is a strange thing. During the meeting it was mentioned that Oracle is heavily leaning on its partner ecosystem to propel the VDI solution, but Oracle does not allow the partner to make money on the support.
Now, when it comes to end-user licensing, concurrent licensing died in the Oracle-Sun fusion process. Instead, Oracle introduced Named User (NUP) or Sun Ray Device (SRD) licenses. For a solution with a pretty brilliant unique smart card ‘follow me’-session technique, this seems a silly thing to do. We might expect a change of mind here. Anyway, these are the prices that were presented to us:
- Software NUP 80 Euro;
- Software SRD 80 Euro;
- Oracle VDI NUP 118 Euro;
- Oracle VDI SRD 118 Euro;
- All Platform Access (Unix, Windows, mainframe, etc) 197 Euro;
- Windows Access 118 Euro.
Annual support is 22% of the list price.
So, these prices are an one-time-fee, the support fee is annual. Strange dilemma: if you don’t buy support on the hardware, you can’t flash the hardware. Interestingly, you need the software to flash the hardware. To deploy the updates, you need support on the software. Tying one to the other. I’m not sure if this is allowed in the US, I am pretty sure it’s not in the EU.
From my point of view, I’m not sure where to position the Oracle VDI solution. On one hand, they really have to make up on the competition when it comes to HD Video, multimedia support, USB redirection and so on. On the other hand, the smart card system with the ‘follow-me’ sessions is proven technology and a very secure access way. The iPad software is a nice-to-have, although I am very curious how one will put a smart card into an iPad. This seems to be a little flaw in the concept.
Personally, I think the Oracle VDI solution doesn’t really offer anything new to the market.
When I asked the sales folks what their unique buying reason would be, I got three:
- Open Framework
- Highly secure from front to end
- Highly energy efficient
The open framework is a pretty open door. You can mix and match the Oracle solution with VMware, Citrix and Microsoft products. But you can also mix and match VMware with Citrix and Microsoft, or Microsoft with Citrix and VMware. All are just building blocks in a total solution from front to end.
The highly secure connection really is a good one. The Sun Ray solution in the past was already known for this. This security implementation seems to be that good, that government offices in the world select Sun Ray for information access.
Highly energy efficient was focused on the client hardware parts, which use about 4 Watts when in use. I’m not sure if this really is a unique buying reason. I know Wyse, Igel and HP have very efficient clients as well and let’s be honest; most power is used by the screens you connect. I doubt if a company will select Sun Rays over any other piece of client hardware because of 1 or 2 Watts less usage.
If I take all things into account, I must say that I’m curious how the VDI market will develop in 2011. With this range of products, Oracle seems to have an edge to jettison itself into this heavy volatile market. On the other hand, if pricing and support don’t improve, they will not win a lot of hearts any time soon.
FYI, the “you can only buy 1 year SnS from reseller, everything else from Oracle’ is standard practice with Oracle products. As a result I advise clients to always buy their software at as big a discount as possible / delay it as long as possible as all future years support costs are based off the original purchase price.