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Sun touts ESX, Hyper-V virtualization on Galaxy boxes

Whatever happened to xVM?

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Sun Microsystems would undoubtedly have preferred that small and medium businesses would be buying its Sparc-based machines, Solaris, and their container or LDom virtualization technologies.

But SMB shops don't know nothin' about Sparc/Solaris and for the most part, they are not all that interested. They do Windows, for the most part, especially at the S end of the SMB segments of the market.

So if Sun wants to win business for its Galaxy line of x64 servers among SMB shops, it has to support other server virtualization technologies and, equally importantly, it has to peddle the products like crazy.

To that end, Sun Thursday announced it's bundling up VMware's ESX Server and Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisors with selected Galaxy servers and related disk arrays to pitch a bundled solution to companies looking to standardize on either ESX Server or Hyper-V on x64 machinery.

Sun is taking its X4150, X4250, and X4450 servers and pairing it up with its 7210 "unified storage" arrays to support the VMware hypervisor, and its X4250 server and J4200 arrays to support Hyper-V. Other combinations of Sun iron will, of course, support either hypervisor, but the preconfiguration makes it easier for Sun's sales reps and its reseller channel to pitch to SMB shops who have very little time and maybe even less money to waste these days.

The iron is more limited for the Hyper-V bundle, so let's start there. It comes in three basic configurations, which Sun scales to the number of users supported on the machine (which seems a bit odd). The small configuration, for up to 250 users, has an X4250 Xeon server with 12GB of main memory and an internal RAID array with 2.3TB of capacity that costs $12,567, with Hyper-V and Windows all fired up on it.

A medium configuration suitable for 500 users, according to Sun, has the same X4250 server with 16GB of memory and a J4200 disk array with 5.3TB of capacity, for $18,247; a large configuration boosts memory to 20GB and chucks in two J4200 arrays for $28,586.

The interesting bit is that when you try to buy it on the Sun site, it passes you off to Sun's reseller partner, CDW, and then says you can contact your existing reseller, if you have one, if you want to spend there.

The preconfigured ESX Server on Galaxy setups are more complex, starting with a "cost optmimized" X4250 fully loaded, including 2TB of disk, for $17,116. Larger configurations include two servers, and are aimed at SMBs that want more than a machine to support development or test workloads - real mission critical stuff, here, lads, which means you need to buy two and lots of VMware goodies in the Virtual Infrastructure stack of tools that ride atop that ESX Server hypervisor.

Depending on the configurations, the pairs of Galaxy servers are equipped with anywhere from 2TB to 44TB of disk capacity, and pricing ranges from $30,283 to $137,283. Once again, Sun is steering SMB buyers to CDW and then secondarily to other resellers in its SMB channel.

In either case, there is no indication that the Sun iron and hypervisor bundle comes at a discounted price, but there is no way it does not have at least two discounts in this market: the first one is from the bundling, and the second one is the one CDW or other resellers peddling to SMBs are going to have to give if they want anyone to spend any money these days.

Sun has been pushing other bundles that are keyed up for Windows Essential Server, the barebones, minimalist Windows variant, as well as Microsoft's Exchange Server email and groupware. Sun also sells bundles with its own MySQL database, which were launched last November.

Sun was also bragging that it was able to kick out some good benchmark results on VMware's VMark virtualization benchmark using an X4450 servers equipped with four of Intel's Dunnington six-core Xeon 7460 processors. That machine was able to rack up a score of 19.47 running 14 tiles (VM instances of a mix of software specified by VMware) on that 24-core box running ESX Server 3.5 and Windows Server 2003.

IBM's System x3850 scored 19.1, Dell's PowerEdge R900 scored 18.69, and Hewlett-Packard's ProLiant DL580 scored 18.56 supporting 14 tiles back in the fall using the same six-core Dunnington chips, so Sun gets bragging rights this week. Then again, it was a little late on the benchmarks.

While supporting ESX Server and Hyper-V are necessary, what actually makes Sun money - or presumably would - would be delivering its xVM Server variant of the Xen hypervisor for the Galaxy machines, and demonstrating that xVM is cheaper and better than the ESX Server and Hyper-V options. Sun didn't say anything about that today when it launched the bundles.

xVM Server, which is a bare-metal hypervisor that supports Solaris, Windows, and Linux guests, was branded in late 2007 and shipped in the summer of 2008. But last year and this year, Sun has really only been talking about its xVM VirtualBox hypervisor, which is something different and that is not (as yet) aimed at production servers.

xVM Server is priced to compete with VMware's products, and you would think there would be an SMB bundle on Galaxies to tout the home-grown (well, at least partially homegrown considering it is Xen in N1 drag) product. ®

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