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Sun Shines Its Light on Virtualization

The virtualization announcements are coming hot and heavy these days; it seems like everyone wants to grab a little of the limelight from VMworld, which starts Monday. The latest is Sun's foray into the virtualization mainstream with xVM Server 1.0, and version 2.0 of Ops Center, which supports xVM.

xVM Server is the hypervisor, while Ops Center is the management framework. Ops Center manages physical -- and now virtual -- machines, much like Microsoft's Sytem Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, coming within the next 30 days.

Sun is definitely a company to watch here. It has an end-to-end solution offering something that not even VMware, Microsoft and Citrix can: physical servers. If you're a shop tethered to Sun servers, you now have no need to try out ESX, Hyper-V, XenServer, Virtual Iron, Red Hat, and so on. You can, of course, but it's not a necessity anymore. In a way, it's the same reason Microsoft has high hopes for Hyper-V; once you install Windows Server 2008, you have built-in virtualization. And when you drop a new Sun box into your datacenter (or use older servers), you've got virtualization without ever downloading a single byte from the Internet. Are you going to try what comes in the box first, then move on to comparisons? Most likely.

There's another Microsoft parallel here as well. Just as Hyper-V is tuned to work seamlessly with Windows 2008, xVM is tuned to work with Sun hardware. xVM is Xen based, but has been specially modified to work better in a Sun environment than anywhere else (although it can be used with Windows, Unix and Linux, too). That's because many elements of Solaris, Sun's operating system, are folded into xVM (as Editor in Chief Doug Barney reported in a recent issue.)

So now there's more competition for VMware. It's interesting to see a new attack vector against VMware opening up from vendors, which Microsoft's General Manager of Virtualization Mike Neil alludes to in our story:

"VMware is in a tough situation," Neil said, "because they're not an operating system provider. All the operating system providers -- Red Hat, Novell, Sun, Microsoft -- are providing virtualization solutions as part of their offerings. There's no real magic here; everyone is going to have that capability."

Hmm. Is VMware in a tough situation here, without an OS of its own? That's a good question. It has seemed to do pretty well without one thus far, leading me to wonder if this is more FUD than anything. What say you?

In the meantime, Sun has taken its first real steps toward a comprehensive virtualization platform, including a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offering. It will be interesting to see if the company can break out beyond its Sun base and into the more general virtualization market. If you're using xVM and/or Ops Center, let me know your experiences.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/11/2008 at 12:48 PM


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