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Oracle chugs down I/O virtualising Xsigo

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Oracle has bought data centre fabric virtualisation start-up Xsigo for who knows how many bucks.

Xsigo was founded in 2004, and its products connect servers and networked devices across an InfiniBand fabric based on I/O Director hardware. This is virtualised, so servers operate as if they have a normal, ordinary connection to a storage array or a network port. With I/O virtualisation, network connections can be dynamically moved between servers, removing cable clutter and making a server-storage-network system more responsive to events and better able to optimise its resources to respond to them.

The start-up has a partnership with Dell and boasts hundreds of customers, many of them blue-chip. Xsigo's products are well suited to cloud-type data centres where resources are provided on a services basis and need to be dynamically reconfigured as loads on different parts of the resource set change.

Xsigo had a competitor, Virtensys, but that firm crashed and was bought up by Micron. Aprius, another competitor, also crashed and burned and a co-founder went to Violin Memory. IOV technology has not been that rewarding for those start-ups involved with it.

A Xsigo blog page has a Cisco competitive presentation about Xsigo which makes fun reading. It reckons Xsigo may have had $200m or so venture capital funding over five rounds. A 4X payout would suggest Oracle paid around $800m for the business, its people and technology.

Oracle's engineering SVP John Fowler said: "With Xsigo, customers can reduce the complexity and simplify management of their clouds by delivering compute, storage and network resources that can be dynamically reallocated on-demand.”

There is an Oracle presentation (PDF) about the whys and wherefores of the deal. Oracle says it is about extending Oracle's virtualisation capabilities with software-defined networking, and so it is if we think about that in terms of server-area networking.

The big win for Oracle is getting hold of technology that can "dynamically and flexibly connect any server to any network and storage" – meaning any Oracle server now to any Oracle storage.

The company already uses InfiniBand – and so adopting an InfiniBand-based data centre fabric technology is an obvious extension of that.

For example it "enables dynamic virtual server I/O creation and migration" which is of obvious interest to Oracle with its hypervisor technology and competition with VMware and Hyper-V.

Oracle says it's reviewing the Xsigo roadmap and so that may change. The main idea is that an Oracle-Xsigo combo should deliver "a complete set of virtualisation capabilities for cloud environments," with Xsigo providing 100Gbit/s bandwidth to a server at up to half the cost of competing technologies.

What we might be seeing here is the first signs of an upwards extension of Oracle's Engineered Systems into Engineered Data Centres. That's one thought to play around with.

Another is that, bearing in mind VMWare's purchase of Nicira, Oracle may think that, to have a full engineered data centre approach, it needs its own networking technology. This logic suggests it's looking at companies like Brocade and Juniper. Now that's an even bigger thought to play with. ®

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