Sun Launches Virtual Assault

Throws $2B at its xVM hypervisor, but is anyone buying?

November 16, 2007

3 Min Read
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Sun has thrown a red flag in front of VMware and EMC by launching an assault on the virtualization market earlier this week, even though there remains a question mark over who will actually buy the technology.

The company used this week's Oracle OpenWorld event to thrash out an ambitious virtualization strategy, which involves $2 billion worth of R&D funding and the development of an open-source Sun hypervisor.

The xVM hypervisor, which was first discussed by Sun a few weeks ago, uses code from the Xen hypervisor and forms the heart of the vendor's virtualization push.

"In our xVM hypervisor is a very lightweight kernel," wrote Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz in his blog this week, explaining that the technology can support the Linux, Windows, and Solaris operating systems as guests.

Hypervisors, which let multiple operating systems run on the same piece of hardware, are at the core of virtualization products from XenSource and VMware, although not everyone thinks that the world needs another version of this technology."I am very puzzled that Sun would announce this; it shows a bit of institutional schizophrenia," says David Young, CEO of utility computing company Joyent, which uses Sun gear to provide Web-based managed services.

The Sausalito, Calif.-based firm is already using a feature within Solaris called Zones, which splits physical servers up into virtual machines, and Young admits that he is "flummoxed" by xVM.

"I am just surprised that Sun would want to put a competitive product on the market," he says. "I would like them to put more R&D dollars into Zones instead of splitting this up into two different virtualization strategies."

A technology analyst, who asked not to be named, agreed that xVM is more about vendor spiel than actual user need. "It's a marketing check-box -- it's so that Sun can look and feel like they are in the VMware world," he said, explaining that Sun is "playing catch-up" with the virtualization trail-blazer and EMC spinoff.

At least initially, it seems that Sun will use a software product called xVM Ops Center to link the disparate parts of its virtualization strategy together.Ops Center will control both the xVM hypervisor and what are known as 'Solaris Containers', which are built on top of the Zones technology. These same Solaris Containers will open the door to storage virtualization by integrating with the Sun's ZFS file system.

Sun says that its xVM technology will run on x86 and x64 systems from a number of vendors, including Dell, Fujitsu, HP, and IBM. Other firms throwing their weight behind the technology this week include Red Hat, Symantec, and database specialist MySQL.

In his blog, Schwartz explained that xVM will work with Microsoft's Viridian hypervisor, and hinted that deals with other vendors could be forthcoming. "As our mothers told us, it's important for us to be a good guest, and a good host," he wrote. "We plan on doing both."

Sun is also taking a leaf from the open source book, making xVM and xVM Ops Center available for download from the Web, although support contracts will also be available.

Another vendor adding flesh to the bones of their virtualization strategies this week was Oracle, which launched its Oracle VM virtualization software for databases.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • MySQL AB

  • Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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