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Sun's xVM virtualization wares run red with catch-up

Horrible pun part of Chewbacca Wookey defense

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While Sun's virtualization play is centered around VMware's VMDK (virtual machine disk format) instead of Microsoft's VHD (virtual hard disk) format, the company claims very close ties to Redmond. For example, Sun and Microsoft will support each others' systems even when they're running virtualized code. Microsoft does not afford VMware the same courtesy, although it does have a solid working relationship with Citrix.

Then, there are some additional bobs in xVM Server, which should ship in June.

You would think Sun could turn around a Xen-based hypervisor in short order, but we're told these things take time. "The candid analysis is that we want to release something that is stable and solid," Wookey said.

The Server product will have its own management interface and APIs for setting up basic virtualization jobs. Once a customer has created virtual systems, it can pull those into OpsCenter via Sun's take on an Apple Bonjour-like service discovery tool.

Sun has also equipped xVM Server with ties to the ZFS file system and networking technology called "Crossbow" that lets admins control things such as bandwidth over the virtual NICs of individual guests and virtual MAC address tagging. (There's more on Crossbow here.)

Even with all of this put together, Sun admits that there's much work to be done once the two core platforms are released. The company may well turn to partners for help filling specific gaps.

"We are not being arrogant and thinking we can build everything by ourselves," Wookey said. "Storage management is a classic one where we might have to look at partnering."

Instead of being late to the virtualization game, Sun could have done a massive partnership long ago. It seems that Egenera's PAN Manager, for example, accomplishes many of the tasks handled by OpsCenter. Dell likes Egenera's software enough to sell it instead of building homegrown code. On the core virtualization front, HP, Dell and IBM have done just fine by partnership with VMware and now Citrix.

An even bolder move might have been the acquisition of SWsoft/Parallels. Few people realize that Parallels exists as the second largest virtualization software seller: the company has both containers and hypervisor plays, which fits right into Sun's strategy.

Without making such a buy, Sun needs to take care of the Solaris base first and foremost and wants to make sure that its software can dig into some of Solaris's fancier features. So, that's why we find it in a very Microsoft-like state of following the leaders.

When xVM Server ships in June, Sun plans to release a second version of OpsCenter that's "much more than just a point upgrade."

It sounds like customers are just dabbling with the technology so far, and we'd love to hear any early reviews. ®

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