Sun enters a suddenly crowded virtualization market

Virtualization was the huge topic during Oracle OpenWorld 2007, and Sun Microsystems kept it going on Wednesday, using Oracle's own show to announce its own virtualization tool to compete with it.

Sun said yesterday it will spend at least $2 billion towards supporting xVM, the company's own virtualization software offering that its executive vice president of software, Rich Green, described as a "complete suite of data center automation technology,"

"Our engagement with the community is not something we take lightly," Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said during the keynote. "It is in every way the foundation of our company."

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In a rapidly congested field full of virtualization contenders, including established leaders such as VMware and Citrix Xen, and the up-and-comers Microsoft and now Oracle, Sun is banking on its own existing assets to help it distinguish itself. To that end, xVM will bring about the first time Windows users can utilize Predictive Self-Healing, Sun's sophisticated system for fault detection and diagnostics.

There will also be the opportunity for clients to employ ZFS, the 128-bit file system considered one of Solaris' crown jewels, and which Sun has been fiercely protecting in recent months.

"On the X86 platform, the hypervisor is based on code derived from the work of the Xen open source community, via the Xen community on OpenSolaris.org," according to Marc Hamilton, Sun's director of technology for its global education and research group.

"Sun xVM Ops Center will be one of the first tools to manage both your physical and virtual environments," he added. "Other virtualization management tools may be able to restart your VM when you have a DIMM failure, but then you need to switch to a different management tool to actually find the machine where the physical failure occurred."

Understanding management can be the most difficult aspect of virtualization, Sun plans to offer next month the vXM Ops Center, which is being described a "highly scalable, full stack management tool."

Even though yesterday was the first time xVM was publicly shown, Sun employees and several press analysts discussed the technology openly in published blogs last month.

According to Green, the xVM Ops Center service will be available to users under a GPL v3 license. Sun plans to offer support subscriptions for companies who are willing to pay for customer support. Companies such as AMD, Intel, Symantec, Quest Software and Red Hat have endorsed xVM, with more companies expected to hop on the bandwagon.

Meanwhile, the OpenxVM.org Web site is being established as an open source community that will help further the development of xVM in the future.

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