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Sun boosts Unix partitioning on Solaris

Sun announced an upgrade to Solaris that includes Logical Domains, an additional Unix virtualization technology to Solaris Containers.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has upgraded its Solaris operating system with Logical Domains, a partitioning technology on its UltraSPARC T1-based servers that, combined with Solaris Containers, can be used to create up to 32 separate Unix OS instances on each system.

Combining the two allows for the creation of several "private execution environments" that still share a single underlying instance of Solaris, for ease of manageability and scalability.

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The announcement today was one of a few regarding upgrades to Solaris 10 11/06. Another virtualization technology, Xen, the open source hypervisor, will ship with the next update of Solaris due out this summer.

OpenSolaris, the open source version of the commercial Sun OS, already ships with Xen as part of its distribution, and Sun had already publicly stated that it would carry over Xen into full-fledged Solaris. But the company had yet to commit to a timeline.

Sun also said that it will have support for Solaris Containers by its high-availability software Solaris Cluster 3.2, released last week. Formerly called Sun Cluster, the software can now monitor an application running within a Container and fail it over to another Container on the same physical host.

Sun targets Linux on x86

In addition, Sun adding support services for its Solaris operating system on x86 platforms in a bid to compete with burgeoning Linux distributions.

Sun is clearly taking aim at Linux, and particularly Red Hat Inc., with its Solaris Support Subscriptions for x86 platforms. The company said its services, starting at $49 for per-incident support, run at about half the cost as equivalent Red Hat support offerings. Sun's basic subscription service provides a year of support on a two-socket system for $240.

The company's Solaris 10 operating system is battling with Linux for share of the x86 operating system environment, even within its own AMD-based Galaxy servers. According to IDC, 71.5% of Galaxy servers run Linux (see Sun, the begrudging Linux vendor).

Tom Goguen, vice president of Solaris software, said in a conference call that Sun doesn't provide those figures to IDC, and so he didn't know how the Framingham, Mass.-based research firm determined them.

But Solaris has a lot of advantages over Linux, Sun execitives said. During the call, Goguen repeatedly compared Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, saying that Solaris supports more than 700 x86 systems, which is more than RHEL 4 supports, according to Red Hat's Web site. He also said that Solaris supports more than 2,000 commercial applications on Solaris 10 on x86 platforms.

"We really think we're ready to go more strongly and broadly into that marketplace," he said.

Linux, not Windows

Clay Ryder, president of Union City, Calif.-based research firm The Sageza Group Inc., said that Sun's approach to attack x86 with Solaris isn't surprising.

"Linux is clearly the real battle for Sun," he said. "It's not Windows. It's Linux on server and Linux on the workstation. That's their biggest competitive challenge."

Clay thinks that Sun's approach is to rebuild the community around Solaris by offering support services and working to boost the number of independent software vendors (ISVs) for the operating system.

"If you look at the strategic platforms that are coming out, they are overwhelmingly Windows- or Linux-based solutions, not Solaris 10," Ryder said. "If you go back a few years ago, strategic platforms were more around Solaris and other Unix solutions, and just a smidgen of Linux. It's that 'rising tides raise all ships.' If the pool for Solaris is sinking, people are going to bail. If it's rising, people will jump in."

During the conference call, Goguen also talked about the availability of some Solaris 10 updates that have already been announced. In an interview with last month, Goguen talked about the current state and future of Solaris. Some of the updates include support for Xen later this year and a feature called Trusted Extensions that allows levels of security to be applied to each object in the operating system environment.

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

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