Sun Not So Quiet on the Virtualization Front

Sun's vice president of xVM discusses the company's virtualization strategy and whether Sun is playing catch-up.

With its recent acquisition of Innotek and reseller agreement with VMware, Sun Microsystems is moving forward to deliver its virtualization solutions to the market. Steve Wilson, vice president of xVM-Sun's desktop and data center virtualization initiative-recently discussed with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli Sun's broader virtualization strategy and vision. He also explained why he doesn't believe Sun is playing catch-up with Red Hat, Novell and Microsoft on the virtualization front.

Isn't Sun pretty late to the game with its virtualization strategy?

Not at all. The market is wide open, with numbers indicating that less than 10 percent of x86 servers are running hypervisors today, and virtualization is primed to go mainstream. Customers and partners are excited about Sun xVM, our open and interoperable management and virtualization platform.

Why did it take so long for Sun to talk about its strategy?

It may seem that Sun has been quiet on the virtualization front, but actually we have a long history in virtualization innovation, dating back to 1985 with the introduction of NFS [Network File System]. Truth be told, for the past several years, Sun has been delivering leading-edge virtualization solutions-such as Solaris Containers, the Logical Domains SPARC hypervisor and our Sun Ray desktop virtualization solutions-to customers around the world.

Are you concerned that the perception you are lagging may put you at a disadvantage to your competitors?

For the past two-plus years, we've been big supporters of the Xen open-source community, actively working with the Xen community code base to enable us to add some very unique capabilities into our products. During the fall, we also inked deals with Microsoft and Red Hat around virtualization interoperability that ensure customers see compatibility and are fully supported. With those two critical pieces-openness and interoperability-in place, we were ready to introduce Sun xVM to the market, which expands our product offerings to include x86 server virtualization for Windows and Linux.

What differentiates Sun's strategy from that of your competitors, and why do you believe this will be effective?

Sun xVM is about providing customers with choice. It is built around three key differentiators: data-center-grade solutions, openness and interoperability.

The Sun xVM Server hypervisor and Sun xVM Ops Center management console draw on Sun's many years of experience in operating at the core of the data center. With unique features such as Predictive Self-Healing, advanced I/O virtualization and ZFS, Sun xVM will enable users to trust more critical parts of their infrastructure to virtualized environments than they do today.

All of the products in the Sun xVM portfolio are completely open source. While some vendors are offering open-source hypervisors, most of the management solutions for virtualization are proprietary, which threatens to lock in customers. The Sun xVM Ops Center source code is licensed under the GNU General Public License Version 3. For this reason, partners are very interested in working with Sun's virtualization offerings. Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Red Hat and IBM, among others, have already announced their support of Sun xVM.

Interoperability is another key value. During initial development, we decided that it was important that the Sun xVM Server hypervisor didn't introduce yet another proprietary file format for virtual machines. We will run virtual machines built for VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V without modification, making it easier for customers to use Sun xVM in their heterogeneous data centers, alongside existing virtualization technologies.