Sun Unveils Virtualization Platform

The Sun xVM infrastructure consists of a hypervisor and a management tool.

SAN FRANCISCO—Sun Microsystems has unveiled its virtualization platform, which consists of two pieces, one being the open, cross-platform Sun xVM Server, which will host Windows, Linux and Solaris guest operating systems.

It will also include the xVM Ops Center, a tool that lets customers manage both their physical and virtual environments.

In a media presentation at the W Hotel here on Oct. 4, Marc Hamilton, vice president for Solaris marketing for Sun, gave a preview of the companys virtualization infrastructure, known as Sun xVM, which he described as the intersection of virtualization and management.

"The Sun xVM infrastructure consists of two elements, xVM Server and xVM Ops Center, and is a complete solution for virtualizing and managing the data center," he said, noting that the Ops Center product is on track for release this December, followed by the first preview of xVM Server.

There will be a second preview in March 2008, with the product likely released by the middle of that year, Hamilton said.

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Read more here about how Sun recently became a Windows Server 2003 OEM.

xVM Server, which is based on the open-source Xen hypervisor and includes a minimized version of Solaris, will also have Microsoft support for Windows Server guests, and Windows guests will, for the first time, be able to benefit from Sun technologies like predictive self-healing and the Zettabyte File System that are built into the product, Hamilton said.

On the x86 platform, the hypervisor is based on code derived from the work of the Xen open-source community, via the Xen community on OpenSolaris.org. The LDOM (Logical Domain Management) hypervisor technology will be used when running on SPARC platforms, he said.

Tim Marsland, Suns CTO for software, said new features developed in the Xen community would flow into xVM Server down the line. But he dismissed concerns that this could create licensing issues, pointing out that the hypervisor is a piece of code that runs in a separate address space.

This factor, for example, he said, allows Windows to run on top of Xen without having to be licensed under the GPL. "These are isolated worlds and there are three system layers, with the hypervisor layer just one of these," he said.

But virtualization is about far more than the hypervisor; it is also about the management tools that make it as simple and effective as possible, Hamilton said.

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To read about virtualizations success story, click here.

"Sun xVM Ops Center is a highly scalable, full-stack management tool [that allows users] to manage thousands of hardware and software entities. It will also be one of the first tools [used] to manage both your physical and virtual environments," he said.

While other virtualization management tools let users restart a virtual machine after a DIMM (dual in-line memory module) failure, users then have to switch to a different management tool to actually find the machine where the physical failure occurred, he said, whereas, "With Sun xVM Ops Center, you can do that all with one consistent management tool."

With regard to how this new xVM platform would play out, Hamilton said Sun has a number of different virtualization technologies from virtual tape libraries to networking products to desktop products. "Under the xVM platform, outside of the xVM infrastructure, you will see a number of products in the future continue to come out in these areas," he said.

While Hamilton declined to give specifics about the business model for these products, he did point to the fact that Suns stated goal is to have all of its software available for free and open-sourced, a strategy monetized through subscription and support. "There is no reason to believe this will be any different from that," he said.

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Read more here about Suns virtualization push.

With regard to competitive nature of the marketplace, Hamilton said there was plenty of opportunity for growth because only 15 percent of servers were currently virtualized. "We think theres room in the market for alternatives," he said.

Asked about possible future live migration from one environment to another, all Hamilton would say was that Suns recent bilateral agreement with Microsoft covers Windows running as a guest on the xVM server and that Microsoft would also support Solaris running as a guest on its virtualization technologies, including "Viridian."

"But that does not imply live migration from one environment to the other," he said.

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