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Is Corente another Oracle SDN acquisition? Not really

Although it has labeled Xsigo, and now Corente, as SDN acquisitions, Oracle is not becoming an SDN vendor.

Although Oracle continues to identify some of its networking acquisitions as SDN companies, the enterprise software giant has no intention of competing in the SDN market.

Startup Corente is the second so-called Oracle SDN acquisition in 12 months. The announcement was reminiscent of Oracle Corp.'s acquisition of I/O virtualization specialist Xsigo, which it also identified as an SDN deal, but most experts said was nothing of the kind. Now the company is promoting the Corente deal the same way, calling Corente a leading SDN vendor that enables WAN virtualization. Corente identifies itself as a company that virtualizes the WAN the way SDN virtualizes the data center LAN.

No Oracle SDN product line forthcoming

Oracle, however, is not trying to compete in the burgeoning SDN market. Instead, the company is improving the networking components of its own technology stack for cloud application delivery.

"The SDN stuff that went out in the press releases, in my mind, is an intentional distraction," said Brad Casemore, research director with IDC. "It's clear this is not a competitor to data center overlays, like VMware NSX. It's an adjunct technology. Oracle is not going to compete with Cisco. This is about their cloud services strategy. It will support other areas of their business."

In other words, don't expect Oracle to start selling Corente's technology as a standalone Oracle SDN product. Oracle will support existing Corente customers, but Oracle's true intent is to incorporate Corente into Oracle's cloud applications stack.

In a presentation about the acquisition on Oracle's website, the company confirmed this view. "With Corente, customers will be able to easily, securely and transparently connect their data centers with Oracle Cloud- and Oracle Public Cloud-hosted applications and infrastructure."

"Oracle is working on building more depth in networking," said Eric Hanselman, chief analyst with 451 Research. "Corente will fill in some of the existing gaps for them. It will be interesting to see how much of Corente survives in six months. Oracle is not afraid to trash all the bits that they don't like. Virtual Iron is a good example."

So what does Corente bring to the table for Oracle? Corente's primary technology is its Cloud Services Exchange, a software-based service delivery platform that establishes secure links between data centers over an IP network.

"Corente creates an overlay between data centers over the wide area network from VM to VM," said Mike Fratto, principal analyst with Current Analysis. "All it does is take IP traffic, encapsulate it and send it across the Web."

Corente's service control portal and application programming interfaces also enable automated provisioning of these Layer 3 connections, Fratto said, which does give customers some of the programmability they look for from an SDN solution.

Fratto said Oracle was relying on networking vendors such as Cisco for that piece of its networking stack. Now, with Corente, Oracle can supply that part of the technology stack on its own.

Oracle could adapt the Corente technology for other uses, Hanselman said. For instance, it could also act as a service insertion engine that links applications with service gateways from Acme Packet, another recent Oracle acquisition.

An email sent to an Oracle spokesperson requesting an interview went unanswered.

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I agree that Oracle is not likely to sell networking products and compete with Cisco in that way, but the two companies are headed towards each other for sure.

The natural conclusion of an application-centric infrastructure is a tighter link between applications and infrastructure. Owning one side of that equation is fine, but once you have that side secured, just over the border is an attractive means of growth.

I don't think that means that Cisco will get into ERP systems, or that Oracle will start making routers. But if the infrastructure is deployed in support of applications, you could see more application-led (or cloud-service-led) deployments.

This will certainly pit the two against each other. Never mind that Chambers' new mantra is that Cisco will be the leading IT company (no longer limiting himself to just networking). I think we are seeing tectonic shifts. They will happen slowly for sure, but things are moving.

-Mike Bushong (@mbushong)