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OpenSolaris Has Virtual-Machine Edge Over Linux

When it comes to virtualization, Sun Microsystems will have a selling point with its OpenSolaris as it tries to compete with Linux.

Solaris 10 has a feature called Solaris Containers that allows the creation of multiple virtual machines under one instance of the operating system. Multiple copies of Windows or Linux are needed to create multiple virtual machines with Microsoft Virtual Server or VMware's GSX because each must use its own copy of the operating system. VMware is a unit of EMC Corp. Likewise, open-source Xen requires a copy of Linux for each virtual machine.

Using an entire operating system for each virtual machine uses up system memory, generates more administrative overhead, and in the case of Windows, generates a Windows license fee for each virtual machine, says John Fowler, Sun's executive VP of the network systems group.

With Solaris Containers, each application on a server can be assigned its own memory, CPU, and storage resources but function under one running instance of the operating system.

"The goal of a virtual machine is isolation," not a unique instance of the operating system, Fowler says. Solaris Containers are isolated from each other. One container can't impede the resources of another, such as straying across a memory boundary and overwriting another application's data. Each container can have its own IP address, its own share of CPUs, and its own share of network bandwidth, he says.

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