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Sun Upgrades xVM VirtualBox, Shares Big Dreams

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In a move aimed at raising its profile in the virtualization market, Sun Microsystems has unveiled version 2.1 of VM VirtualBox, its open source desktop virtualization solution.

The vendor reveals its plans to become a major virtualization player with an improved desktop virtualization product.

This is the third release of the product in the past two years and is almost twice the size of version 2.0 — 30MB as compared to 17MB in version 2.0 — and has features that make it faster and easier to use and more interoperable.

Over time, it will be rolled into Sun’s Sun VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), which is a server-side desktop virtualizationplatform, to create an end-to-end virtualization solution that will position Sun against market leader and partner VMware and Microsoft.

“We’re not walking away from supporting VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V in the future as well, but if you do want everything from one vendor, we’ll be offering you a choice,” Andy Hall, senior product manager for the Sun xVM Virtual Box, told

xVM is designed to support Intel’s newest processor, the Core i7, as well as its widely-used Core 2 Duo desktop chip. The Core i7 uses hyperthreading, a feature that lets a single processor core run two simultaneous threads, which Intel claims offers the most performance for the least amount of power used.

The Core 2 Duo support is for the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iMac and MacBook, Hall said. Here, xVM VirtualBox 2.1 will leverage VTX (virtualization extension
technology) in the chip. The Core 2 Duo includes Intel vPro, a bundle of management, virtualization and security technologies. Apple switched to the Intel architecture three years ago.

For desktop application acceleration, Sun also added support for OpenGL, which is used in desktop graphical applications such as Google Earth.

With the virtualization market seeing an increased number of partnerships and the emergence of new players as vendors seek to cash in on a market analysts predict will be hot for 2009, Sun may have a chance, Mark Bowker, analyst at research firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), told

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Sun has also sped up xVM 2.1 by building in a network address translation
engine into xVM VirtualBox 2.1 and tuning it to perform faster on all the operating systems it supports — Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X. The NAT engine will increase performance by 20 percent, according to Hall.

For ease of use, Sun has built in the ability to run 64-bit guests on a 32-bit environment. “That’s the number one requested community feature,”
Hall said. “Some developers are trying to develop applications on the latest MySQL database, which runs on a 64-bit platform that is enterprise Linux.”

MySQL is the most commonly used open source database, Hall said. Sun bought it for $1 billion in January, gaining instant access to developers in high-profile companies such as Facebook, Google, blogging platform WordPress and Nokia, according to K’s Weblog.

Another feature that improves ease of use is networking setup. Sun xVM VirtualBox 2.1 uses the host interface to make virtual machines appear like real physical machines on the subnet. “This means you can start to use VirtualBox for pretty powerful client to server type workloads,” Hall explained.

For interoperability, Sun built in support for the iSCSI protocol, which is used for high-speed network storage access. Sun also has an RDP capable server built into xVM VirtualBox 2.1 so users can share access to a virtual machine on any of the operating systems VirtualBox supports.

The support for iSCSI and RDP gives users who run xVM VirtualBox 2.1 a server side desktop virtualization platform. “Sun already has xVM VDI but this is really a broker, relying on the back end platform, whether VMware ESX or Windows Terminal Server,” Hall said.

“With VirtualBox 2.1 you can have everything from Sun — the VirtualBox layer, the broker layer, the remote access layer and the storage layer,”
Hall said. “You can virtualize a desktop and run it client side or server side with VirtualBox.”

This article was originally published on

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