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Desktop Virtualization

Sun Releases xVM VirtualBox 2.1

Sun Microsystems recently released the latest version of its desktop virtualization software. The xVM VirtualBox 2.1 comes with several enhancements, including accelerated 3D graphics, better network performance, additional storage support, plus improved support for Mac OS X on Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x) as well as VMware's and Microsoft's virtualization formats, VMDK and VHD.

Sun bills its VirtualBox software as the first major open-source hypervisor to support all of the most popular host operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, and OpenSolaris. It's designed to allow developers to create virtual machines (VMs) into which they can install various operating systems. Working in the VM, developers can build, test and run cross-platform, multi-tier applications on a single laptop or desktop computer.

The Santa Clara, CA-based systems company unveiled its first xVM product at the 2007 Oracle OpenWorld conference. Sun has actually been providing virtualization technology since the development of the first Java VM, but xVM was the company's first foray into hypervisor-based virtualization.

Jim McHugh, marketing vice president in Sun's Datacenter Software group, said in a statement that "the excitement in the developer community has also taken xVM VirtualBox software into IT departments ... where we've seen desktop virtualization software being used to solve issues of PC management, software distribution and desktop security."

Sun is reporting huge adoption numbers around its virtualization portfolio: The company claims 8 million downloads and 2.4 million registrations for the VirtualBox alone.

The desktop virtualization software is part of a larger portfolio that includes the xVM Ops Center, xVM Server (he company's hypervisor for data centers), and the Sun Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). All are available under the GNU Public License (GPLv3).

Tom Bittman, distinguished analyst at Gartner, said he expects Sun to continue playing the "dark-horse role" in the evolving virtualization market. That market is still dominated by VMware, Bittman observes, with serious competition from the likes of Microsoft, Red Hat, and Novell gaining momentum.

Neil Macehiter, research director at industry analyst firm Macehiter Ward-Dutton, said he sees Sun's desktop offering as a smart move. "The real money around virtualization is not the hypervisor," he he told this site. "Ultimately, the battleground in this market is going to be fought at a higher level--management, monitoring, optimization, resource allocation--rather than the core hypervisor or virtualization file formats."

The new version of the xVM VirtualBox will also provide additional hardware support, including Intel's Core i7 processor architecture (code-named Nehalem). It will also allow users to run 64-bit guest OSes on 32-bit host platforms.

The xVM Virtual Box 2.1 is available now as a free download.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Mountain View, CA.

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