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Rollout: WebLogic Server Virtual Edition, LiquidVM and Liquid Operations Control

The Upshot

BEA WebLogic Server Virtual Edition aims to make SOA applications more flexible. How? By eliminating the OS and instead using LiquidVM, a modified JRockit Java virtual machine that runs directly on a hypervisor. This approach promises to simplify VM management while reducing system resource consumption by 25% to 50% compared with running Windows or Linux.
AJava competitors IBM and Sun have also heavily embraced virtualization, but they have strong roots in the OS world that they won't abandon. By competing with OSs, BEA is also going up against Linux vendors, including its partner Red Hat. Microsoft is likewise a big competitor, though BEA does plan to support its upcoming hypervisor..
LiquidVM will give BEA an important boost—if it can meet its performance claims, especially once extended beyond WebLogic. However, the real benefits will stem from easier VM management, and users will have to wait longer for that. Though the server itself is available now, the management tools aren't due until near the end of 2007.

WebLogic Server Virtual Edition (WLS-VE), LiquidVM and Liquid Operations Control (LOC)

If you think OSes are becoming entirely too bloated, BEA Systems has a radical solution: ditch them entirely. Its WebLogic Server Virtual Edition, intended for virtualized servers that are part of a SOA infrastructure, runs directly on top of VMWare, no Windows or Linux necessary.

Losing the operating system has several benefits. Many OS services are already duplicated by Java or the hypervisor, and BEA estimates that cutting the OS can reduce consumption of system resources like memory and CPU cycles by 25% to 50%. It also simplifies management, as WLS-VE knows that it's being virtualized and so can more easily map software processes to the hardware it's running on. Performance can improve, as a complete OS doesn't have to be loaded whenever a VM is started.

Still, though WLS-VE shipped in July, its Liquid Operations Control (LOC) management system won't be available until December. Performance claims haven't yet been proved and will depend on using hardware with virtualization support baked in—without it, VMware simply takes the place of the OS.

Moreover, WLS-VE currently supports only 32-bit x86 applications: Though it can run on 64-bit hardware, each VM behaves like a 32-bit machine. And, some customers will miss OS features that BEA has cut in the name of efficiency, especially support for local disk drives.

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