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Sun Microsystems will release sample code next month giving Solaris 10 its first injection of virtualization on Intel and AMD hardware, finally expected in 2007.

Sun will release a snap shot of code to the OpenSolaris community, which runs on the community's Xen virtualization technology and provides domain zero support for Solaris running on 32-bit and 64-bit Intel and AMD processors.

Domain zero will enable Solaris to run securely on the same hardware as Linux distributions under the control of the Solaris management framework. Open Solaris is the open source, unsupported edition of Solaris, and Sun plans to add domain zero support to its fully supported version of Solaris in early 2007.

Sun's support for Xen potentially brings Solaris 10, as well as virtualization, to a wider audience. Sun already supports VMware but Xen comes at a substantially lower cost than VMware thanks to the fact that it's free. The fact that it also runs on Intel and AMD means customers can get virtualization with Solaris on a low-cost platform.

Sun claims it's giving customers "choice" by offering them both VMware and Xen, however Sun clearly has a wary eye to the future. That future? Using low-cost virtualization to drive uptake of Solaris on mass-market Intel and fast-growing AMD.

That's incredibly important to Sun, because widespread use of Solaris is the foundation stone to its strategy of increasing revenue from software services - in this case Solaris 10. Sun currently has three Solaris support offerings: a basic rate of $120 per year per physical CPU, $240 for support running eight hours a day five days a week, and a premium level of support that kicks in at $360 and is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Chris Ratcliffe, Sun's director of system software, said it's important for Sun to support Xen to ensure Solaris retains its appeal among customers and developers. "Part of the strategy in integrating Xen is to keep it competitive, ahead of the competition at a functional level, and make code available to developers," Ratcliffe said.

Support for Xen has an added twist. XenSource is positioning Xen 3.0 as ideal for the mid-market of Windows users. Sun will be eager to see these customers running Solaris on Intel and AMD instead of Windows. The addition of Xen running with a secure operating system like Solaris could give them a reason to switch. ®

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