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Sun virtualization fills in checkboxes

Sun's virtualization story now includes updated xVM server virtualization and Ops Center management with browser-based console and support subscriptions.

Sun Microsystems today filled in some gaps in the Sun virtualization portfolio, announcing new versions of Sun xVM and xVM Ops Center, as well as enterprise-class support subscriptions to cover them all.

Two days after the Microsoft Get Virtual Now event and a week before VMworld 2008, Sun is portraying itself as the provider of a full virtualization suite that supports all the major operating systems.

"We already had components of this [suite], all downloadable, but customers are looking for enterprise-class support," said Vijay Sarathy, senior director of xVM marketing. "The bare-metal hypervisor is new. It allows data centers' live migration, and we've made it easy to manage. It's all browser-based management."

The new products also support 64-bit operating systems.

Some said Sun's offerings will find traction mostly in existing Sun shops. But one observer said Sun partners should keep their virtualization options open. Sun's xVM would fit right into Sun-run customer sites, but if those sites also have islands of Windows, Sun partners would do well to hone their VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V skills as well, IDC analyst Al Gillen said.

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"What's the alternative, to turn that customer over to a Microsoft or VMware partner?" he asked.

In a tacit nod to the reality of mixed-platform sites, Sun and Microsoft will integrate Sun xVM Ops Center with Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager 2007. Sun Solaris will also be certified as a guest operating system on Hyper-V.

Sun virtualization joins a growing field

The virtualization land grab is officially on. Microsoft Hyper-V is already embedded in Windows Server 2008, and a free standalone version of the hypervisor is due within a month. VMware also sports a free hypervisor, and many expect the company to react to lower-cost competition with price adjustments elsewhere in its lineup.

VMware is the de facto standard, and its annual VMworld show is expected to draw 14,000 people to Las Vegas next week, making it one of the largest tech shows in the world. But every other vendor in the tech universe wants a piece of the virtualization pie.

First there are the virtualization-specific pioneers: VMware, Citrix, Virtual Iron and Parallels, Gillen said. Then there are the operating system vendors: Microsoft, Sun, Red Hat and Novell. Oracle doesn't offer its own OS, but it is also a platform provider that is trying to keep customers' virtualization dollars in house. The company will not support third-party virtualization running in customers' Oracle installations, and it is pushing them to use its own.

Solution providers need to keep an eye on this trend. Customers wanting to maintain heterogeneous technologies -- such as running VMware with various operating systems -- will need partners to help keep those implementations running and on track.

Sun is pricing aggressively. xVM Ops Center starts at $100 per managed server, up to $350 a year. Annual subscriptions start at $500 a year per xVM physical server, with an additional $2,000 for support. A Data Center subscription is $3,000 per server per year, and all prices assume a four-socket server.

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