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Meet Solaris 11.2, where SDN means 'Software-Defined Net profit'

This time, Larry's Oracle is going after the networking giants

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Analysis Larry Ellison’s Oracle bowled out Solaris 11.2 last week – and what does this member of the Unix family give us? Cloud computing, yes, but also a stab at a datacenter-in-a-(large)-box.

It's not too far off the database-as-a-box idea Larry's been banging on about since 1998.

Oracle’s Solaris 11.2 announcement is larded with the usual boilerplate about enterprise scale, efficiency, security and compliance. What's new is a degree of software-defined networking (SDN) support.

It’s for that reason that version 11.2 marks the latest chapter in Larry's campaign to turn Oracle’s massive-throughput Exalogic Elastic Cloud appliances into one-stop datacenters.

Exalogic boxes are being used more for massive servers and transaction processing than for their intended purpose as cloud-hosting systems. By introducing some SDN features, Larry hopes to change that – and pick a fight with network equipment makers, from Cisco and Hewlett-Packard to Brocade.

The biggest addition is OpenStack, a toolbox for building clouds. The new version of Solaris, which shipped last week after being in beta since April, runs OpenStack Havana. Version 11.2 of Solaris also sports Elastic Virtual Switches (EVSes); XVLAN to layer network segments; and a set of features to prioritize network traffic on a per-app basis.

The message is clear: telcos, service providers, and financial giants using Solaris can now buy just a handful of Solaris boxes and run mission-critical clouds, or at least use bits of OpenStack to throw out Cisco or Juniper hardware. That's the sales pitch, anyway.

The truth about OpenStack is not particularly stellar, however: it’s not actually being used to spin up that many private clouds. Customers are going private with VMware or public with Amazon and – increasingly, if you are a Microsoft shop – Windows Azure. Hewlett-Packard has since thrown $1bn at OpenStack to beef it up, though.

Oracle has plumped for the latest build of OpenStack, too: that's great if you like your code fresh, but enterprise customers like their code well-seasoned before they roll out new software in large deployments. Anybody spinning up OpenStack will be using earlier versions while waiting for Havana to mature.

There’s another challenge to Larry's Solaris cloud dream: Linux. Most public clouds are spun up using Linux because it's open source, doesn't need proprietary hardware, and so on. Meanwhile, the server market, and the sales of Unix machines, is shrinking, according to IDC numbers.

While cloud computing makes the headlines, it’s the network that makes the money – enterprise network and data centre tech, especially. Underlining Solaris 11.2’s network-friendly focus is this: planned future support for OpenDaylight software-defined networking (SDN).

OpenDaylight is a project to build an open-source framework for software-defined networking, led by the Linux Foundation. The technology sprang into life in April 2013, and is an all-friends-together push from Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, HP, IBM, Juniper, Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware and others.

Oracle now wants to turn the OpenDaylight gun against some of its co-creators, by turning high-density Exalogic servers into all-in-one datacenter appliances.

Larry has been after the networking companies' pocket money for some time. Until now, he's been romancing small specialists like Pluribus. With Solaris 11.2 and Solaris Next, the Oracle supremo will fall back to his company's own server metal and software. ®

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