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Sun to virtualize boxes, storage and NICs with 'Project Virginia'

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Sun Microsystems will soon extend its virtualization ambitions via something code-named Project Virginia.

CEO Jonathan Schwartz has hinted at Project Virginia a couple of times without providing any real detail on the technology. Sadly, we can't make up for Schwartz's reticence with any grand information revelation. But we are able to dish a few tidbits on this virtualization play.

First off, Virginia will unite Sun's many server virtualization efforts that include the long-standing Solaris Containers and fresher work around the Xen-based x86 xVM hypervisor and the upcoming Etude technology. Etude, in part, provides a path for customers to run Solaris 8 applications on top of Solaris 10.

Sun's Solaris hawker Marc Hamilton explained Etude in a bog post.

To date . . . Solaris Containers have only supported applications that are already running Solaris 10. So Sun engineers developed something called BrandZ . BrandZ is a framework that extends the Solaris Containers infrastructure to create Branded Containers, which are containers (also called zones) that contain non-native operating environments. The term "non-native" is intentionally vague, as the infrastructure allows for the creation of a wide range of operating environments. So without going into the exact details just yet of how the Solaris 8 Migration Assistant works, it does utilize the BrandZ technology in Solaris to allow Solaris 8 applications to run in a Solaris 10 container.

Virginia also ties together Sun's various storage virtualization efforts, including its homegrown - please ignore, NetApp employees - ZFS file system and the recently acquired Lustre file system.

Then, there's a network virtualization element as well that comes from Sun's Crossbow technology for slicing up NICs to manage bandwidth between applications.

As far as we understand it, all of these technologies will soon be controlled in one place by a revamped version of Sun's N1 management software.

As Schwartz mentioned last week, Sun's virtualization play will now cover Windows in addition to Solaris and Linux.

If past performances are any indication, Sun will announce this broad virtualization management project soon but actually deliver it much, much later. (We're willing to be proved wrong here.)

Should Sun actually have all these pieces lined up, it stands to show off one of the most complete virtualization architectures on the market. No other company seems capable of digging as deep into server, storage and networking at the same time.

Open source aficionados - and you can only call yourself that after listening to this - will be pleased to learn that Sun plans to turn over the Virginia code.

We're most curious about how N1 handles all of this, as the management software has been one of Sun's least thrilling rides in recent years. N1 sounded great when Sun first unveiled it after the Terraspring acquisition in 2002. Since then, we've seen Sun do precious little on the multi-vendor and application management front. In the meantime, HP has acquired stuff like Opsware while a host of start-ups in this market have started to tie themselves to VMware.

As mentioned, we won't suggest this is any more than a skeleton of Project Virginia and await more detail on the code. Do tell. ®

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