When Sun Microsystems unveiled its xVM Virtual Box high-performance desktop hypervisor, it expected a fairly good response – after all, the hypervisor
The response blew Sun away — xVM Virtual Box has been downloaded more than five million times in the 18 months since it was rolled out.
It lets users access software using Windows and Linux, and lets developers build, test and run cross-platform, multi-tier applications on a laptop or desktop.
Sun unveiled Virtual Box 1.6 May 2, adding full support for Mac OS X, Solaris and OpenSolaris, formerly beta features, as host operating systems; it also supports Linux, Solaris, OpenSolaris, Windows and OS/2 as guest operating systems.
“You can host as many virtual machines as you like on top of your host operating system,” Vijay Sarathy, Senior Director for Marketing, Sun xVM, told InternetNews.com.
Virtual Box has a 17 megabyte footprint (DEFINE:FOOTPRINT>, and version 1.6 lets a window within the guest operating system float on the host OS “without all the other background from the guest cluttering up the desktop,” Sarathy said.
It was “designed from the ground up to be extremely modular” so programmers who don’t need the user interface can just use a command line or a Web services API (application programming interface) to control the hypervisor, according to Sarathy.
Version 1.6 added the Web services API.
Virtual Box is the entry-level product in Sun’s xVM virtualization and management platform; the other three are xVM Server, an enterprise grade bare metal hypervisor; xVM Ops Center, the management framework, version 1.1 of which has just been released, and Sun VDI 2.0, unveiled March 18, which provides remote consolidation of desktop operating systems.
Sun said Virtual Box is for anyone who wants to test cross-platform applications or develop multi-tier applications. If users want to then move to an enterprise-class desktop, they can go to xVM Server, Sarathy said.
Sun will add proactive live migration, as well as the predictive self-healing capability from Solaris, to xVM Server, to be unveiled this summer. Predictive self-healing lets the system identify and isolate defects in hardware as they crop up “so it can still function, which makes for a very reliable and available platform,” Sarathy said.
Sun also plans to beef up xVM Ops Center, which now allows for data center automation and management. “Today we can do Solaris and Linux provisioning, and we’ll add Windows provisioning,” Sarathy said.
Ops Center version 1.1 has just been released. It supports multi-node management within a data center, has a highly scalable management and automation infrastructure, according to Sarathy. Version 2.0 will be released later this year and will provide a single, Web-based browser to manage both physical and virtual environments.
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Sun VDI 2.0 is “the only virtual desktop infrastructure solution that offers a choice of Linux, Windows or Solaris remote desktops,” Sarathy said.
VDI 2.0 also offers role-based provisioning capabilities, and lets users access their full desktop environment from nearly any client device without installing software.
Another Point of View
With Virtual Box, Sun “wanted to be able to offer something in every category and that’s the hole Virtual Box fills,” Roger Klorese, senior director of product marketing for Citrix XenServer and the Citrix virtualization and management division, told InternetNews.com.
“They had containers in Solaris, and recently announced the Xen-based xVM Server in the bare metal space but didn’t have anything of their own in the hosted virtualization space that’s easy to adopt and put on your desktop.”
Virtual Box was an open source development from scratch. The software employs one of three methods of virtualization: hosted; operating systems virtualization (which Sun offers in its Solaris containers) and bare metal implementations, which is where Citrix plays.
Citrix is not currently looking at running virtualization locally on the desktop because “we use Xen and that’s a bare metal technology; we focus on the delivered virtualized desktop from a server in the data center,” Klorese said.
Citrix supports Windows and Linux guests, and will be able to support commercial Solaris guests when customers require it “because Sun is shipping it Xen-ready,” but has no plans now to support Mac OS X “because running Mac OS guests has to do with licensing that from Apple,” Klorese said, adding most [virtualization vendors] avoid Mac OS guests as a business issue, not a technology issue.”