eWEEK Labs on IBM/Sun: Sorting Out the Virtualization Picture

TECH ANALYSIS: Both IBM and Sun Microsystems offer virtualization technology for their systems, but IBM would probably phase out Sun's if the two companies were to merge. Sun's VirtualBox virtualization software has not been around long enough to gain a strong foothold among Sun users, while IBM has a strong relationship with VMware.

There are few technologies in the data center that are getting the same level of attention from enterprises as virtualization.

Virtualization offers the promise of driving down costs through consolidation while increasing server utilization. The technology also is rapidly expanding beyond servers and into other aspects of the data center, from storage devices to applications to networks.

It's also an area in which both IBM and Sun Microsystems have offerings. Those products will have to be sorted out if IBM follows through on buying Sun.

Sun has virtualization for its SPARC hardware running Solaris and also for commodity x86 systems in its xVM line. IBM has virtualization for its proprietary hardware and would likely add the xVM developments to its product line while phasing out Sun's proprietary virtualization system as the underlying hardware reached the end of its service life.

Sun acquired Innotek-the original maker of VirtualBox-in February 2008, so it isn't as if IT managers have had years to implement and embed the x86 virtualization technology. As a competitor to Microsoft's Hyper-V or, more importantly, VMware's ESXi, it doesn't really register on the scale.

IBM has relationships with VMware and embeds the VMware hypervisor in some of its server offerings. Leaving IT managers undisturbed as they proceed to virtualize with VMware would probably have the advantage over an attempt to introduce xVM.

Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at cameron.sturdevant@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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