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Sun Unveils Virtualization Platform

The xVM Server is based on the open source Xen hypervisor and includes a minimized version of Solaris.

Sun Microsystems on Thursday unveiled its virtualization platform, a combination hypervisor and management tool that the company plans to start rolling out in December.

Sun xVM will initially comprise a server and the Ops Center management system, which together provide a "turnkey virtualization environment," Marc Hamilton, VP of Solaris marketing, told reporters at a meeting in San Francisco. Sun also met with reporters in London and Boston.

The platform will challenge VMware, which in 2005 accounted for 55% of the total revenue from virtual machine software, according to IDC, and remains a market leader. VMware is owned by systems management vendor EMC, which sold 10% of the company in August in one of the year's hottest initial public offerings. The sale raised $957 million for future expansion and development.

Sun did not seem fazed by the competition. Hamilton said the virtualization software market is young, representing only 15% of the total number of server instances. "We think there's room in the market for alternatives," Hamilton said.

The xVM Server is based on the open source Xen hypervisor and includes a minimized version of Solaris. A hypervisor is a software layer that sits on top of the server hardware and manages the operating systems running in the virtualized environment. In essence, the hypervisor is a kind of universal OS.

Among the Solaris technologies included in the xVM Server are the ZFS file system and "predictive self-healing" technology, which enables Sun systems to predict component failures and hopefully mitigate serious problems. Along with Solaris, the Sun virtualization environment will support Windows and Linux operating systems. Microsoft has agreed to support Windows on Sun xVM Server, Hamilton said.

The xVM Ops Center will be an "end-to-end" system capable of managing hardware and software, Hamilton said. Capabilities include discover and inventory, checking and provisioning firmware, managing hypervisors, provisioning applications, automating software updates, and compliance reporting. Sun is marketing the software as doing "everything except unpack boxes and rack and cable systems."

Sun was not ready to discuss how the new software would be sold. However, Hamilton said it would be in line with Sun's pledge to make all its software open source, and charge for subscriptions. "There will be no reason to expect something different," he said.

Version 1.0 of Ops Center is expected to be available in December, with a preview of version 2.0 set for release in March 2008, and generally available in the second half of the year. A preview of version 1.0 of the xVM server is scheduled for release in January 2008, with a second preview version in March, and general availability in the second half of the year.

Sun intends to incorporate its virtualization technology across its desktop, storage, and networking product lines.

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