Sun introduced its Sun xVM Infrastructure, consisting of the Sun xVM Server and Sun xVM Ops Center, during a series of press and analyst chalk talks held in London, Boston and San Francisco earlier this month. This end-to-end software is designed for virtualizing and managing the data center.
Sun xVM Server
This open, cross-platform server is capable of hosting Windows, Linux and Solaris Operating System (Solaris OS) guest instances.
Sun xVM Server is based on the open-source Xen hypervisor, a software program that manages multiple operating systems (or multiple instances of the same operating system) in a virtualized environment on a single system.
One of its benefits is that the server can pass on technology to the OS. So predictive self-healing and ZFS features built into the server will be inherited by the OS, including Microsoft Windows. "It can take advantage of them even if the guest OS wasn't aware of them," said Richard Green, Sun executive vice president of Software, at the London preview.
Sun's Hypervisor Technology
Sun's xVM Xen-based type 1 hypervisor will be easier to manage and use less system resources than other hypervisors currently available for x86 servers because Sun has isolated the hypervisor in a separate container within the Solaris OS, said Green, reported Martin Courtney with IT Week. This will allow it to take advantage of physical hardware capabilities like multi-threaded CPUs, 10GbE links and quality of service (QoS) control features to improve I/O performance.
"The challenge is that most type 1 hypervisors are based on Linux kernels, where the physical services available on the machine are blocked by a simpler set of services on the hypervisor itself," Green said. "We have replaced those Linux kernel functions with Solaris which is much better at fault management, file systems, direct attached storage (DAS) and so on. It is about obtaining the most performance and control."
Sun xVM Ops Center
This tool provides a management environment for the provisioning of thousands of physical and virtual machines running across multi-vendor x64/86 and SPARC systems.
"The real challenges in virtualization are in management," explained Marc Hamilton, vice president of Solaris Marketing at Sun, in a recent blog. "Sun xVM Ops Center is a highly scalable, full stack management tool to manage thousands of hardware and software entities. Sun xVM Ops Center will be one of the first tools to manage both your physical and virtual environments. Other virtualization management tools may be able to restart your VM when you have a DIMM failure, but then you need to switch to a different management tool to actually find the machine where the physical failure occurred. With Sun xVM Ops Center, you can do that all with one consistent management tool."
Part of the benefit of virtualization is to be able to move workloads to a different server in the event of a hardware failure or to allow for maintenance without system downtime. In order to automate such live migrations, management software is required and it must be able to detect when a server is about to suffer a hardware failure, noted Hamilton, as reported by Tom Sanders with vnunet.com.
"The business agility benefits are more a feature of the management platform than of the actual virtualization platform," chimed Hamilton during the San Francisco preview.
Sun xVM Server technologies are already available on OpenSolaris.org. The commercial version of Sun xVM server is expected to have its first preview in January, followed by a release in the second quarter of 2008. The xVM Ops Center management application will be released in December.
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