Sun to provide Xen virtualization on Solaris

Sun plans to provide support for Xen virtualization on its Solaris OS by the middle of next year in an attempt to draw more customers to its platform.

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Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to provide support for Xen virtualization on Solaris 10 by the middle of next year in an effort to boost the popularity of the Unix operating system (OS).

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Sun executives said this week that they'll release code to OpenSolaris in July that supports Xen. Full support for Xen on OpenSolaris is expected toward the end of the year with a commercial version due out early next year.

The announcement follows an upgrade of Solaris earlier this year that included a 128-bit file system called ZFS, short for Zettabyte File System. Additionally, former Sun chief Scott McNealy also proposed to converge competing Unix platform HP-UX with Solaris 10 earlier this year, in an effort to widen Solaris adoption.

"Sun is trying to broaden the appeal of Solaris and make it the standard for Unix systems, so this is another way to make Solaris more appealing," said Joe Clabby of Clabby Analytics. "They're trying to make Solaris the industry standard Unix, and one way to do that is to put a lot of value in it for very little money."

Will Solaris take the Unix crown?

"I don't see how," Clabby said, adding that Solaris has a loyal group of developers behind it, but that a new batch of developers are high on Linux.

Still, for users looking for virtualization alternatives, providing support for Xen can't hurt Solaris. Clabby added that Xen could appeal to enterprises looking for an open source alternative to VMware Inc.

Solaris 10 currently supports Sun's own virtualization technology, Solaris Containers. Solaris Containers previously had only been able to run other instances of its own OS, but a new technology dubbed BrandZ will allow users to create so-called zones running non-native OSs, such as Linux, on top of Solaris. BrandZ is still in development mode within OpenSolaris and is expected in a commercial version next year. Solaris also supports EMC Corp.'s VMware.

Clabby said that virtualization in the data center is "hot, hot, hot." Server virtualization allows an IT manager to divide up a single physical server into multiple virtual servers, allowing them to save space and money by buying fewer servers and managing programs and tasks more efficiently.

The clear leader in this field is VMware, but it has seen some competition from Microsoft, and now XenSource Inc. and Virtual Iron Software Inc. are pushing to make Xen the open source competitor.

"Data centers are looking for this kind of software," Clabby said. "The bottom line on this becomes a question of support after cost. If you go open source, you take on a lot of the responsibility for support."

Sun is also reportedly looking for a way to virtualize 10 Gigabit Ethernet network infrastructure.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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