I've been meaning to post something about my conversation with Sun's Steve Wilson about xVM for a while but, other things kept getting in the way. Steve and I have spoken often in the past and I've always enjoyed his insight into virtualization technology as a whole, how organizations could make best use of that technology and how he can take part in a technical discussion that leaps off into humor and bad puns on a regular basis.
What is Sun xVM?Sun's xVM is a family of products that address quite a number of needs that include desktop and server virtualization (virtual machine software) and Sun's xVM Ops Center. Let's take them one at a time.
OpenxVM - the virtual machine monitorOpenxVM is built using the open source project, Xen. This is the technology that is at the heart of products from Citrix XenSource, Novell/SUSE, Red Hat and Virtual Iron. Sun hopes to distinguish its efforts from the others by enfolding it in a comprehensive, scalable management environment.
xVM Ops Center - lifecycle management and automationxVM Ops Center is a management environment that is designed to help organizations manage xVM virtual machine (regardless of whether they're running Linux or Solaris on either x86 64-bit system or Sun's own SPARC-based systems). Sun's xVM Ops Center offers organizations the tools to discover and register virtual systems, provision these virtual systems, schedule the execution of processes or jobs throughout these virtual systems, updating Linux and Solaris operating systems running on these virtual systems and providing operational reporting.
Snapshot AnalysisSun has long been a player in nearly all of the segments of the market for virtualization software. It also has a long record of supporting datacenters for organizations of all sizes, including the large, very large and rediculously large.
The announcement of the xVM family can be seen as one of a number of efforts Sun is undertaking to bring some of the technology that is at the heart of their world-class Unix system, Solaris, to the world of Linux. Sun is in a strong position to do this since both Linux and Solaris are open source technnologies.
Sun, however, is facing stiff competition from a number of directions. Let's quickly review them:
- Sun is not addressing the competitive threat coming from Microsoft in these announcements. While Windows may not have been mentioned in Sun's announcements, it clearly is going to be in the same datacenters that house Sun's products.
- The other suppliers of Unix technology, including HP, IBM and others, are making simiilar efforts to "cosy up" to Linux. They are also bringing some impressive technology to the market. Sun's efforts appear quite good and yet, it is not clear if Sun will be seen as offering better tools than, say HP or IBM.
- The Lunix distributions, including Red Hat and Novell/SUSE, have also fully embraced Xen and are working to extend the reach of their management tools and frameworks. It is not clear that organizations seeking Linux-based solutions will select Sun's approach over efforts made by the pure-play Linux suppliers.
- Suppliers of management software for virtualized environments, such as Cassatt, Novell, Scalent Systems, Racemi, Virtual Iron and VMlogix have also embraced the Xen environment. It is clear that Sun has a track record of success in satisfying the needs of large and very large organizations. That being said, it is not at all clear that organizations interested in the capabilities offered by these other competitors will also consider Sun's efforts.
In summary, I'm impressed with the vision Steve Wilson articulated during our animated discussion. If Sun's efforts in operating system virtualization and partitioning are used as a guide, I know that Sun will bring really powerful technology to market. It's going to be interesting to see how Sun competes with all of the others that are trying to offer similar capabilities in their own way.