RealTime IT News

Love Fest at Oracle Confab: Sun and Dell

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems upstaged its own announcement in a keynote address here at Oracle OpenWorld today by making way for a surprise onstage visit to the company's keynote address by Michael Dell.

The main focus of Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's talk was the company's introduction of Sun xVM, its new virtualization technology.

But Dell's CEO and founder joined Schwartz to announce Dell has inked an OEM agreement to distribute and support Sun's Solaris operating system on Dell PowerEdge servers. Schwartz said Sun reached out to Dell after analysis of Solaris users revealed a third of them were running on Dell servers.

Michael Dell
Michael Dell
Source: Dell

On the other side Michael Dell said his company was hearing more and more requests from customers, including Oracle customers, for the company to provide support for Solaris. Dell is schedule to make his own keynote later today at the show.

Sun has run aggressive, very pointed marketing campaigns promoting the benefits of its system over Dell, HP and others. But today in a follow-up media briefing, Schwartz said, "The stupidest thing we could do is say 'You blew it, you made a mistake'" buying Dell.

Schwartz said such hardball marketing is a thing of the past for Sun. He even went so far as to suggest customers could use the $5,000 they might save adopting Sun's free Solaris and xVM software "to buy a brand-new Dell server."

The agreement is a feather in Sun's cap and follows similar agreements with IBM and Intel to support Solaris. In the past Sun has noted a large number of Hewlett Packard customers use Solaris, but there's no such Solaris agreement with HP.

On the virtualization front, Sun is joining a suddenly crowded field of players that includes market leader VMware, XenSource (now owned by Citrix) and Microsoft, which plans to introduce a hypervisor  for Windows later this year.

Jonathan Schwartz
Jonathan Schwartz
Source: Sun

Just last month Dell inked a deal with Citrix to distribute and support XenSource. Dell is also a leading provider of VMware.

"What it says is there's going to be a proliferation of hypervisors," IDC analyst Jean Bozman told InternetNews.com. "Companies are going to go after customers in a variety of ways."

Schwartz dismissed the notion Sun was entering a commodity market with a free product that won't help its bottom line. "Exxon just reached a half a trillion dollar market cap based on a commodity," said Schwartz. "Commodities are where it's at."

Sun's head of software, Rich Green, said there is plenty of opportunity for new players in virtualization, noting market leader VMware is installed on only about 9 percent of servers.

While Sun plans to make xVM and a unified management infrastructure called xVM Ops Center, available for free later this year, Schwartz said it will charge for support. For many enterprises worldwide, he noted running "a free, unsupported product is not an option," because the cost of downtime far outweighs the cost of support.

In addition to the standard advantage of facilitating server consolidation, Schwartz said xVM and Ops Center are designed to help forward-looking "dynamic" datacenters better deal with a flood of new data streams from public-facing workloads.

He suggested Sun will have an advantage over VMware because of its experience as both an operating system provider (Solaris) and hardware manufacturer. In developing xVM, Sun leveraged work it's done as the second largest contributor to Xen's open source virtualization software.

Ops Center will include a unified management console designed to help users manage both the virtualized and physical components of their IT environments. Sun xVM Server, Sun's virtualization server, will include code derived from the Xen open source community.

Sun said xVM Server will help extend the benefits of technologies like Predictive Self-Healing software and ZFS to Windows and Linux guest operating system instances, previously only available to Solaris OS users.

In a demo, Steve Wilson, vice president of Connected Systems Management at Sun, used Ops Center to connect with his company's Denver data center to show how a network administrator might reallocate resources or distribute a patch.

He said Sun has worked to simplify the management console to make it more accessible, using the metaphor of the popular Facebook social network, with users "invited" to connect to administrators once the proper security entries are made.