OpenVZ Project Supports Virtualized Linux on Sun's Sparc T1 Chips
Published: January 9, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
The OpenVZ project, which steers the development of the technology behind the server virtualization technology behind SWsoft's Virtuozzo commercial product, has announced that it has ported its OpenVZ software to Sun Microsystems' "Niagara" Sparc T1 processors.
Because Sun has taken the designs and specifications of the Niagara chips open source, the job of porting any software to it--whether it is an operating system, virtual machine hypervisor, or a virtual server partitioning tool such as OpenVZ and the commercialized Virtuozzo implementation--is made substantially easier than it might otherwise be. According to Kir Kolyshkin, who manages the OpenVZ project on behalf of SWsoft, the port to the Sparc T1 was made by a Sparc customer--Jonathan Kinney of Advantagecom Networks, which is a Web hosting service provider based in Walla Walla, Washington. In addition to making the request for the OpenVZ port, Advantagecom Networks provided a Niagara-based server for the OpenVZ project to use to do the port. The company says that it has set up a number of virtualized servers running the Debian implementation of Linux on the machine and that they are working perfectly well.
With the OpenVZ and Virtuozzo products, a server is carved up into virtual machines that share a common operating system kernel and a common file system. Operating system instances are put in sandboxes akin to Sun's own Solaris containers and BSD jails, which isolates them in terms of applications and security settings. Applications think they are running on a single physical machine even though they have a virtual server slice. This approach provides less isolation than bare-metal hypervisors such as VMware's ESX Server for X86 and X64 servers, Sun's own forthcoming LDom logical domain support for the T1 chips, or its Sun's dynamic domain board-level partitioning for its UltraSparc server line. With both OpenVZ and Virtuozzo, a single physical server can support hundreds to thousands of virtual servers.
It is unclear when SWsoft will officially support the combination of the Sparc T1 chip and Linuxes on the production-grade Virtuozzo product, or when Linux support will go beyond the Debian variant. According to sources at the company, commercial support is a function of creating the templates to support a virtualized platform and those are driven by customer demand. As with other commercial products with an open source development model, just because a feature is available does not mean it makes it into the commercial product, but conversely, the fact that the OpenVZ project added the support for the Sparc T1 chip and Sun's T1-based machines are selling at a reasonably brisk pace (at about a $400 million a year run rate and growing) is a pretty good indicator that SWsoft will eventually offer commercial support for the Sparc T1 chips running Linux.
Sun is pushing the Ubuntu variant of Linux, which is a commercialized version of Debian Linux created by British company Canonical, on the T1 machines. Neither Red Hat Enterprise Linux nor Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server run on the Sparc architecture--Sparc T1 or earlier UltraSparc-II, III, and IV variants. While enterprise customers tend to pick Red Hat or SUSE variants, the service provider customers that Sun is targeting aggressively with the Niagara machines commonly use Debian or FreeBSD Unix as well, so the lack of support for Red Hat and SUSE Linuxes is not so big a deal.
At this point, OpenVZ is not offering support for virtual server partitions that run OpenSolaris, the open source development version of Sun's Solaris Unix variant, or Solaris 10 itself. And it is not clear if it ever will, either, although this would be useful for ISPs that have a mix of Solaris, Linux, and Windows iron. If SWsoft did support all three platforms, ISPs and enterprise customers who use all of these platforms for their infrastructure workloads might be more inclined to use Virtuozzo. Solaris 10 is, of course, supported on X86 and X64 iron, so in theory such support should be possible.
Late last year, the OpenVZ project announced that it could support virtual Linux servers on IBM's Power processors, and OpenVZ has supported virtual servers on Intel's Itanium processors for some time. The commercialized Virtuozzo product supports Microsoft Windows 2003, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, Red Hat Fedora Core 1, 2, 3, and 4, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and 4, and CentOS 3.4 and 4.0 as host operating systems. A much wider variety of guest operating systems are available on the Linux front, including SLES 8 and SLES 10 as well as Debian 3.0 and 3.1. and Ubuntu 5.1, 6.06, and 6.10.
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OpenVZ Project Creates Templates for Debian Virtual Servers
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