IBM, Sun and research and development company Sine Nomine Associates demonstrated OpenSolaris code running on a System z server earlier this week at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. The OS ran within the z/VM environment, which is capable of handling as many as 1,000 virtual images of an OS on a single hypervisor
A hypervisor is the underlying technology that enables a server to run multiple operating systems on separate virtual machines. The process, called virtualization, makes it possible to consolidate business applications in one server, taking full advantage of the computer's processing power.
Mainframes are capable of virtualization on a greater scale. The System z has run Linux on z/VM for sometime, helping to bolster the open source operating system's role as a software platform in the data center. Sun is apparently hoping OpenSolaris will get the same boost.
In addition, IBM endorsed Sun's recently introduced virtualization platform called xVM. The platform, based on the open source Xen hypervisor, includes management tools for hosting Linux, Windows, or Solaris as guest operating systems or all three at once on the same physical server. The xVM hypervisor can make use of key characteristics of Sun's Solaris 10, which is also available as open source software. Those features include Solaris' 128-bit ZFS file system, which increases the amount of address space that can be included in a virtual storage system.
"Momentum surrounding Sun's Solaris operating system and Sun xVM virtualization continues to grow, and we're thrilled to be able to reach new customers and market opportunities alongside IBM," Rich Green, executive VP of software for Sun, said in a joint statement with IBM.
James Stallings, general manager for IBM, said IBM and Sun could build a symbiotic relationship that takes advantage of each company's data center technologies. "It makes perfect sense to marry these two stalwarts in a virtualized mainframe environment," he said.
The announcement follows an unimpressive third quarter for System z sales. IBM's share of the worldwide server market fell to 30% from 33% in terms of revenues, due to weakness in Sytem z and System i sales, according to IDC. After five consecutive quarters of positive growth, revenue from IBM's System z servers running z/OS fell 31.9%. IBM, however, remains the top server maker by revenue.