Sun releases VirtualBox 2.1

Andy Hall, Sun's Sr. Product Manager of VirtualBox, spent a while filling me on VirtualBox 2.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Andy Hall, Sun's Sr. Product Manager of VirtualBox, spent a while filling me on VirtualBox 2.1 the other day. He wanted to let me know that some significant milestones had been reached and tell me a bit about the new release.

Significant Milestones

First, over 8 million copies of the software have been downloaded. Andy pointed out that the software is being downloaded a a rate that's nearly 25,000 a day.  As I've pointed out in other posts, the number of downloads doesn't directly equal the number of copies of software in actual use. Andy must have read that post. Although he was polite enough not to say anything about that post, he do go on to say that over 2 million people gone to the effort of registering their copies. That figure is a better measure of software that either is involved with a pilot project or is in use in a production system.

What's new?

Here's what Sun has to say about this release:

xVM VirtualBox 2.1 software features a number of new enhancements, including:

  • New Accelerated 3D Graphics: Uses the industry standard application programming interface (API) for high-performance graphics, Open Graphics Library (OpenGL), allowing users to flawlessly run applications like Google Earth and CAM-based software that are popular among heavy users of imagery like industrial designers, automotive and robotics engineers, architects, etc.
  • Improved Network Performance: Makes network intensive applications like rich media (video, audio, interactive media, etc.) even faster. In addition, with new bridged networking configurations on Windows and Linux platforms, xVM VirtualBox software makes it easier to deploy server applications in virtual machines, allowing customers to easily deploy Web stacks like LAMP or SAMP.
  • Storage Support: Comes with built-in iSCSI support to connect to storage systems, such as Sun's newly announced Open Storage appliances, the Sun Storage 7000 family, also known as "Amber Road." This feature enables easier management and sharing of virtual disk images.

In addition, xVM VirtualBox 2.1 software offers improved support for:

  • Mac OS X on Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x): Provides better support for Mac OS X as a host OS utilizing hardware-assisted Intel VT-x for better performance.
  • VMware's and Microsoft's Virtualization Formats: Offers improved support for VMware's virtual machine disk format (VMDK) and Microsoft's virtual hard disk (VHD) file format, allowing for easy transfer of critical business information.
  • Intel Core i7 processor: Enables extremely fast performance on leading-edge hardware with support for the new Intel Core microarchitecture in the Intel Core i7 processor (codenamed Nehalem).
  • 64-bit guest OS on 32-bit host platforms: Allows users to run powerful 64-bit guest OS on 32-bit host platforms without the need to upgrade the host OS while taking advantage of multi-thread applications on powerful hardware.

Snapshot Analysis

There are many entries in the virtual machine software market. Without thinking about it too hard, the list of supplies of this sort of technology includes:

  • VMware
  • Citrix and the other members of the Xen community (includes Linux distributors, such as Red Hat, SUSE, etc., Sun, Oracle and Virtual Iron)
  • Microsoft
  • Parallels
  • The KVM community (this includes all of the Linux distributors as well)

Have I left anyone out?

This, of course, demonstrates that Sun is facing significant challenges in offering something so distinctive that it will rise above all of the other challengers. Several have already found ways to support 64-bit operating systems within virtual machines on hardware that supports this. Sun can point to the fact that their product supports all of the major virtual machine file formats. They can also point to support of accelerated graphics and other performance enhancing features.

While this appears to be an interesting offering, Sun still faces a great deal of work to get a typical IT decision maker to understand the benefits of the Sun product when there are others making a great deal of noise about the wonders of their products and their technology.

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