Oracle Ravello falls short of VMware Cloud on AWS in one key area

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It’s no secret that abstracting the data center can increase agility. For example, deploying a 3-tier application across two geographic regions completely load balanced takes weeks, if not months, in a traditional data center. However, software-defined data centers (SDDC) and the public cloud can enable the same deployment in minutes via software code. As such, data center managers are increasingly looking to either build private clouds or leverage public clouds.

To fill this need, VMware recently announced its VMware Cloud on AWS solution, which allows users to run vSphere workloads, unmodified, on AWS. And now, Oracle is looking to offer a competing service.

Oracle Ravello has offered the ability to run VMware vSphere workloads on AWS and Google Compute for some years. Oracle Ravello leverages their HVX technology to abstract public cloud services, so Ravello is technically an abstraction on top of an abstraction. It doesn’t take an expert in virtualization technology to predict that performance takes a hit after so many layers of abstraction.

Bare metal cloud service

Oracle also announced the capability to leverage the Oracle Ravello service on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is the rebranded name for the Oracle bare metal cloud service. By leveraging bare metal servers Oracle Ravello can, in theory, come close to the production level performance of native hypervisors compared to the original Ravello Systems offering.

What does this mean for existing and potential Oracle Ravello customers? If you use the service today, there’s virtually no change to your workflow.

Oracle Ravello provided me access to the beta service over the past couple of weeks. While my days of deep virtualization engineering are over, I do need to host the occasional workload for testing new applications and services. Much of my Oracle Ravello use over the past year focused on testing software in Windows Server 2012 R2. So, I had an existing application blueprint to compare performance on the new service.

Deploying the blueprint to the new service was straightforward. In the beta, the new service is simply a new region within the Oracle Ravello control panel. So, the same workflow of exporting an unmodified VMware virtual machine image into Oracle Ravello bare-metal service works.

First impressions

There was a noticeable increase in performance between the original service and the service running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The workload I tested is a 3-tier Windows app. It took 40 minutes to boot the 4CPU/16GB server on the original service. The new platform cut that time in half, but I wasn’t able to perform any meaningful performance tests. However, Oracle is marketing the solution as an alternative to vSphere for production workloads.

The Oracle Ravello service lacks in an area where VMware shines: Ecosystem. While Oracle Ravello publishes an API, I’m not aware of management solutions that provide a vCenter-like capability. Oracle Ravello does provide a useful abstraction layer for running vSphere workloads on a wide range of platforms from AWS to bare metal servers, but the solution needs a stronger management layer. Without the management layer, I don’t predict many customers would forgo vSphere for Oracle Ravello. Although, I do still see this as a powerful solution for test/dev and other non-mission critical workloads.