Sun's Virtualbox Teleportation: Neat Trick, Not A Game Changer

News was rife this week about Sun's inclusion of teleportation within its virtualization platform, VirtualBox 3.1. With teleportation, virtual machines can be moved, uninterrupted between disparate hosts—including those on different operating systems, different classes of computer (e.g. server to client) and even different CPUs (e.g. Intel to AMD). Sun hailed the innovation as adding a key capability to the platform to the data center. Analyst Randy George, however, doesn't see it as bein

December 4, 2009

2 Min Read
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News was rife this week about Sun's inclusion of teleportation within its virtualization platform, VirtualBox 3.1. With teleportation, virtual machines can be moved, uninterrupted between disparate hosts—including those on different operating systems, different classes of computer (e.g. server to client) and even different CPUs (e.g. Intel to AMD).

Sun hailed the innovation as adding a key capability to the platform. "Today's enterprises expect to deliver a 24/7, always available, computing service. The ability to teleport, running virtual machines from one computer to another, allows system administrators to perform essential maintenance with zero downtime of their IT systems." said Jim McHugh, vice president Datacenter Software marketing at Sun. "As a cross-platform hypervisor, VirtualBox allows customers to easily evaluate and deploy virtualized systems, using their existing x86 hardware, operating systems and skillsets."

The new release also introduces a number other improvements to the platform. Sun claims that VirtualBox 3.1 delivers a 30 percent performance boost over the previous version of VirtualBox. The upgrade also has features to help system administrators move a VM back or forward in time to any arbitrary snapshot state.

But it was teleportation that caught media attention. From what we can tell, VirtualBox is the first to provide cross-platform teleportation for VMs between server and clients. Yet, while the feature is technically innovative, most data center managers will only have passing interest in Xen's teleportation innovation.

For one, moving VMs themselves is a capability already offered by VMware. What's more common are the design constraints that still apply. "Organizations will still need to have shared storage, so it's not like they're doing anything that can't be done with [VMware] ESX," says  NWC Analytics analyst, Randy George. "If it could move images between servers not connected to the same SAN, such as across the continent, that would be impressive."He did like the ability to move VMs between chipsets, even if it will be of only passing importance "It's pretty cool that you can move Live Motion from Intel to AMD, but how many [data center managers] really need to do that?" He also noted usability might be an issue, seeing that moving VMs is done though a command line interface.

Finally, while McHugh touted the ability for system administrators to perform essential maintenance with zero downtime of their IT systems, George didn't quite see it as being critical. Applications that are so important to the organizations that can't be taken offline are most likely clustered so it would be a rare event to take an image of VM and motion it somewhere else.

It appears that the development is technically interesting, though of minor practical importance to most data centers. Think George is being too pessimistic? I'd be interested to know. Leave us a comment and let's get your two cents on the new VirtualBox. 

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