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Oracle mounts cloud on FrankenStack underlay

A splash of Nimbula and lashings of OpenStack

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OpenWorld Six months after borging the cloud management startup Nimbula, Oracle has ginned up an infrastructure-as-a-service product suite based on the open source OpenStack platform and a mish-mash of other technologies.

In building this cloud, Oracle has embraced open source (but not, we should point out, apparently contributed any code back to the community) and given another stamp of legitimacy to the OpenStack platform. But the reliance on OpenStack combined with some of Nimbula's proprietary technology and a mess of other open and closed software projects means Oracle's cloud is more FrankenStack than OpenStack.

Since the cloud was given a major infrastructure-as-a-service makeover at Oracle OpenWorld on Tuesday, we've been walking the Stanley Kubrick–esque corridors of the Moscone Center trying to wring information out of the company. Here is what we know:

  • The Object Storage Service is based on OpenStack Swift
  • Chef is used for provisioning basic gear
  • The compute services use Nimbula's cloud technology along with some OpenStack compute code
  • The hardware supporting the cloud ranges from engineered systems like Exalogic for block storage, to ZFS appliances for the OpenStack-based object store, to commodity hardware.
  • It already has some 250 petabytes of data under management, though much is storage from SaaS apps rather than pure IaaS
  • There will be a database backup service that can take info from the just-announced Oracle Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance and replicate it into an Oracle database in the cloud, then onto ... another Oracle Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance, this one in Oracle's datacenter

The company's use of OpenStack and Nimbula calls into question how real its cloud has been in the past.

"At this stage [OpenStack is] pretty much storage and little bits of compute – that's not to say that OpenStack code is not used elsewhere but those are the really interesting relevant parts," Chris Pinkham, Oracle's senior cloud guy and former head of Nimbula, tells us.

We've heard that the Nimbula technology was integrated as a result of the acquisition, which begs the question: just what the heck was Oracle's public cloud compute service based on when the company announced it had developed an IaaS last year? Much vapor and little else, we reckon – though at the time of writing, no one could tell us.

The addition of IaaS also sees Oracle go back on previous promises.

Last year, it said the Oracle cloud will run exclusively on Oracle's pricy engineered systems, while claiming it will be "cost competitive" with the megaclouds of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. This is berserk. This year Oracle said it is in fact using "a mix" of its own high-end engineered systems along with – gasp – "commodity hardware" as well in its cloud, according to Oracle marketing bloke Rex Wang.

By adding in IaaS based on OpenStack, the company is heading in the direction espoused by Rackspace, IBM, and HP, but by doggedly sticking to a smorgasbord of its own pricy tech plus the nonstandard Nimbula platform, it is taking a path at odds with the rest of the industry.

It's all rather funny, considering that just two years ago Oracle's cloud chief Tyler Jewell told us, when asked if Oracle would get into IaaS: "No. I just don't see us going down that track. The problem with going down the stack is the only thing to compete on there is price, and it's just a race to the bottom. It's unclear where the value is."

Well, Oracle is heading to the bottom now, and the value? Who knows, since Oracle will not tell us pricing or even when the service will become generally available. ®

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