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Sun Oracle revs LDom VMs for Sparc Ts

Pre-deal whisper release

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Former server and systems software maker Sun Microsystems, now part of the Oracle collective, quietly announced a new release of the Logical Domain virtual machine hypervisor for the Sparc T line of processors several days ahead of the closing of the $7.4bn deal.

As El Reg already explained in its in-depth coverage of the aftermath of the acquisition, Oracle is keeping the entire stack of Sun virtualization tools - and more or less in tact. Sun's Ops Center tools - for managing operating systems (Solaris and Linux), LDom partitions, and Solaris containers as well as bare-metal and hypervisor provisioning - will be merged with Oracle's VM Server management tools for its Oracle VM and Oracle Enterprise Linux and with the larger Enterprise Manager tool that Oracle uses to manage all of its soft wares. Oracle VM Server for Sparc appears to be the larger name for the OpsCenter and LDom tech, if you believe the converged Oracle and Sun Web sites.

LDom release 1.3 came out on January 21 without any fanfare because Sun was still in a muzzle as the European Union's antitrust authorities were still debating whether or not to allow Oracle to buy Sun. You can see the release notes, reference manual, and admin guide for the Sparc hypervisor here on the OpenSolaris site.

The most significant new feature of the LDom release 1.3 software is the adding of dynamic resource management for virtual CPUs on the Sparc T2 and T2+ machines. With this feature, system administrators set a high and low threshold for virtual CPU utilization on a LDom partition. If an LDom needs more capacity and other LDoms on the box have spare capacity, the system can grab that free capacity and make use of it on the hungry LDom. Any spare capacity not being used by an LDom is thrown into the pool.

Sun's hypervisor software engineers also tweaked the LDom stack so Solaris instances that are running on a physical T2 or T2+ processor and are making use of the embedded cryptographic processor can be migrated, jumping to another processor with crypto units. (Solaris has to be patched to get the dynamic cryptographic support as well as moving to the latest LDom 1.3 code).

LDoms, which can span from one thread on the T2 or T2+ chips all the way to all of the threads on the machine, have one cryptographic unit for each of the eight cores on the chips. Depending on the availability of resources, the number of cryptographic units before and after a jump may not be the same. The point is, the applications running inside the LDoms that need cryptos won't stall if they are moved.

The updated hypervisor also has memory compression that allows the memory footprint of a domain to be crunched down before a domain is moved from one physical machine to another one using live migration. This memory compression speeds up the migration process. As you will recall, Sun added live migration to the LDom hypervisor back in July 2009, when release 1.2 came out. That release also allowed for dynamic powering up and down of Sparc T cores inside of servers and a physical-to-virtual converter tool to help move applications running on legacy Sparc iron to LDoms on new Sparc T series machines.

LDom 1.3 can now boot from a disk drive that is larger than 1 TB, supports autosave for XML interfaces, has features to automate LDom migrations between machines (which were previously done manually).

The LDom hypervisor was shipped with all Sparc T systems for free by Sun, and there is every reason to believe that Oracle will not change this since it ships Oracle VM, its commercial-grade Xen hypervisor for x64 servers, for free. But Oracle does charge for support on Oracle VM, and there is a reasonable likelihood that LDom support will come with a price tag soon or be bundled in with Solaris 10 support once Oracle simplifies the Sun support matrix as it has promised it will do.

The updated hypervisor does not work on all Sparc T machines, but just on machines using the Sparc T2 and T2+ chips. Specifically, LDoms 1.3 can be used on these T2 machines: the T5120 and T5220 rack servers, the T6320 blade servers, and the ruggedized Netra CP3260 blade and T5220 rack server for telcos and service providers.

The T2+ machines support by the updated hypervisor include the T5140, T5240, and T5440 rack servers, the T6340 blade, and the Netra T5440. These machines have to be running OpenSolaris 2009.06 or later or Solaris 10 10/09, the latest commercial release from Sun that was delivered last October (as the name suggests, obviously). ®

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