Most of the emphasis around virtualization has been geared toward the server side, but Sun Microsystems is also interested in the desktop.
On Tuesday, it announced plans to acquire innotek, a German company that develops desktop virtualization software.
innotek’s product, VirtualBox, is a GPL-licensed, open-source platform that allows a single desktop or even laptop PC to run multiple operating systems concurrently. Users can jump between the platforms with the click of a mouse.
Sun plans to make VirtualBox a part of its xVM strategy and product line.
Sun has two basic intentions for VirtualBox; it will be used for developers working on multiple platform projects to run their development environments on one box, and it will allow for the creation of a mini environment where a virtual server can be set up, all of the applications installed and tested, and then moved wholesale to the server for deployment.
“One of the things about virtualization that makes it so appealing is you can encapsulate these virtual machines, literally their whole state, in a file and move them from one machine to another for simple deployment,” said Steve Wilson, vice president of the xVM program at Sun.
[cob:Related_Articles]Wilson expects developers will use it for building out the application structure of a server such as the database, applications and middleware as well as perform testing and move it to live production environments.
“The ability to have the full stack of software all neatly encapsulated in something they can neatly deploy is a powerful thing,” said Wilson.
VirtualBox can be downloaded for free at virtualbox.org or openxvm.org. The download is less than 20 megabytes and can run a host of operating systems, including all versions of Windows from 3.1 to Vista, Linux 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6 kernels, Solaris x86, OS/2, Netware and DOS.
“The real power of the innotek software is it’s so cross platform,” said Wilson. “Whatever someone has chosen as their desktop of choice—their deployment OS may be selected for them by management—they can run multiple OSes in real time on the desktop and flip back and forth between them with the click of a mouse.”
Clay Ryder, president of the consultancy The Sageza Group, was impressed to see OS/2 and NetWare among the list of innotek’s supported operating systems. “It struck me as these guys are really into virtualization, as opposed to virtualizing Windows,” he told InternetNews.com.
But Ryder is a little more skeptical of Sun’s virtualization plans. “I wonder if this isn’t their me-too play,” he said. “In some ways, I think Sun needs a non-Solaris answer.
“Will it double Sun’s fortune over night? No,” he said. “But will developers make use of it and have affinity for it? Yes. And Sun is back in the let’s-court-developers camp.”
Sun expects the purchase to be completed during the third quarter of Sun’s 2008 fiscal year, which would be this calendar quarter.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed as the transaction is not material to Sun’s earnings per share, which would make it a lot cheaper than Sun’s pending $1 billion purchase of MySQL.