Sun Sets Out Virtualization Plans

Throws weight behind the open-source Xen hypervisor, but many question marks remain

October 5, 2007

3 Min Read
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Sun today laid down its virtualization roadmap for the next few years today, detailing a somewhat vague set of plans to tie its server, storage, and desktop offerings together.

"Sun is a company that has virtualization in its DNA," said Steve Wilson, the vendor's vice president of systems management, on a conference call earlier today, but admitted the vendor has not always done a good job of getting this message across.

A number of vendors are currently attempting to tie server, storage, and desktop virtualization together, including Citrix, which recently threw down $500 million for XenSource, Symantec, and VMware, which snapped up desktop virtualization specialist Dunes last month.

Sun, which recently revealed that it will use source code from the Xen hypervisor within its Solaris operating system, today confirmed that this will be at the heart of its long-term virtualization strategy.

Hypervisors, which let multiple operating systems run on the same piece of hardware, are at the heart of flagship virtualization products from XenSource and VMware, although users have called on vendors to step up their efforts around the technology.For Sun, this involves rolling out a set of products as part of an initiative called xVM. "There has been a lot of speculation about what does xVM stand for, and what does it mean," said Wilson, explaining that the technology, which relies heavily on the Xen hypervisor, will combine both virtualization and management features.

For x86 machines using chips from Intel and AMD, Sun will offer a product called xVM Server. Built around the Xen hypervisor, the software will support Windows, Linux, and Solaris as guest operating systems.

The vendor will also launch a software product called xVM Ops Center for managing different pieces of a data center. "That will be the command and control console for the physical and virtual side of your data center," said Wilson, explaining that it will control both the xVM hypervisor and Solaris Containers, a feature of the Solaris 10 operating system which integrates with the vendor's ZFS file system.

"This is to let a customer manage a wide range of physical and virtual entities," said Wilson, explaining that Ops Center will handle "thousands" of different physical devices and virtual servers.

Sun is planning to launch beta versions of Ops Center and xVM server in December and January, respectively, with general availability expected to be sometime in the second quarter of 2008.When these products are in place, Sun will start to flesh out its broader virtualization strategy. "Over the next several months, we will be announcing additions to xVM about how desktop, storage, and networking fit under this umbrella," said Wilson.

Although the exec would not go into specific details, he promised that ZFS, which Sun has described as the fastest growing storage virtualization technology in the marketplace, will be at the center of this effort. "[It is] a key part of what we're doing in storage virtualization," he said, adding that the vendor will eventually virtualize its x4500 server/storage system and its "Magnum" InfiniBand switch.

"I would say that, over the next three months or so, we will start to roll out stories about how these come together," said Wilson.

Sun execs on today's call were quizzed about how the xVM strategy will impact future relations with the likes of Microsoft, which has its own hypervisor called Viridian. The Solaris OS will be supported within Viridian, explained Wilson, adding that the two vendors are starting to work together around management interoperability.

The exec was much vaguer when questioned about Sun's future dealings with virtualization giant VMware, whose own hypervisor competes with Xen's. "We do have some formal agreements with them," he said, alluding to the vendor's OEM deals for VMware's ESX Server products. "We have a close relationship with VMware -- we expect to continue on that."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.

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Dunes Technologies SA

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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