Oracle ceases development of VDI, Sun Ray clients and software

Oracle has ceased development on Oracle VDI, Sun Ray software and client hardware with plans to focus on Oracle Secure Global Desktop and VirtualBox.

The updates to Oracle VDI and Sun Ray software and client hardware that came earlier this year will be the last, and IT customers are left wondering what to do next.

Oracle Corp. has ceased development of its Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) software, Oracle Virtual Desktop Client software, Oracle Sun Ray software and Oracle Sun Ray client hardware, according to an Oracle blog post this week.

I've never met anyone who uses [Oracle VDI].

- Gunnar Berger, Gartner analyst

Oracle did not respond to questions about how customers should plan their virtual desktop strategies going forward. It has not provided a transition plan.

The company has already eliminated a number of its VDI customer support staff, according to Gabe Knuth, an industry watcher and TechTarget contributor who received confirmation from sources this week. He wrote about Oracle's VDI plans and said that Oracle has maintained a skeleton crew to support customers. Oracle also plans to sell off its Sun Ray inventory, Knuth said.

Oracle has not confirmed this information. The company has only stated that customer support and the renewal of support contracts for the products will continue uninterrupted and that customers can continue to purchase new licenses. Exact timeframes for a last order date for Oracle Sun Ray client devices will be announced shortly, the company said in its blog post.

Oracle's VDI products allow IT to manage and deploy virtual desktops and provide users with access to them on client devices. The products being discontinued were acquired as part of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in 2009. At that time, many wondered whether Oracle would continue development of Sun's products or do away with them.

The company had made a number of improvements to Sun's VDI software and Sun Ray client products since then, including an iPad app for virtual desktop clients in 2011. The last updates to Oracle VDI (3.5), Sun Ray (5.4) and Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (3.2) became available in March with new features including Windows 8 support.

Oracle not known for VDI

Some who received news about Oracle's plans via email, such as Gunnar Berger, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, Inc., weren't surprised because Oracle didn't have a foothold in the VDI space; it simply couldn't compete with Citrix Systems, Inc. and VMware Inc.'s VDI products.

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Oracle's market share for client virtualization is in the low single digits, and they have not increased share at all in the last few years, said Brett Waldman, an analyst with IDC.

In fact, a number of IT industry watchers weren't even familiar with Oracle's VDI offering.

"I've never met anyone who uses it," said Berger, who regularly speaks with corporate clients about VDI. "I'm talking about Oracle VDI more now that it's over."

Berger has tried Oracle's VDI software and said it was "nothing phenomenal."  However, "the biggest problem with adoption was not the product; it was the name Oracle that scared people away," he said.

"Companies see the name Oracle and think: expensive," Berger said.

However, Sun Ray clients and software did have a committed user base that existed long before Oracle acquired Sun, and those users took to social media to express their disappointment. As one Sun Solaris user said on Twitter, "Wow, another axe to a great Sun product."

Oracle's desktop efforts will now center on Oracle Secure Global Desktop, which provides remote access to server-hosted Windows, UNIX and legacy applications. It will also continue to focus on open-source Oracle VM VirtualBox, a cross-platform virtualization application that can be installed on computers running any operating system and run multiple OS environments.

While both of those products support Windows, Mac, Linux or Solaris operating systems, Oracle VDI only runs on Solaris or Oracle Linux. That may have played a role in the limited adoption of Oracle VDI, as only 18% of companies run Solaris in their data centers, and 14.1% run Oracle Enterprise Linux, according to TechTarget's Data Center and Readers Choice 2013 survey.  Windows has the largest market share of any OS by far -- 82.5% use Windows Server 2008 R2, according to the survey.

However small, there is a niche market for running virtual desktops on Linux, and now there is one less option.

"Oracle had a trusted name that enterprises could get behind" to run VDI on open source Linux, Berger said.

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