Transitive Rejiggers Emulation Software, Adds Partners
Published: September 18, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
While server virtualization is perhaps the hottest topic in IT these days because it makes servers more flexible, more resilient, and work harder thanks to consolidation, it could turn out that over the long haul the emulation of applications written on one architecture (and its operating system) on totally different and incompatible systems is equally important in delivering flexible, resilient, and efficient systems--and perfectly compatible with virtualization. That is what Transitive, the maker of the QuickTransit emulation environment, is certainly hoping.
Transitive burst on the scene three years ago with its QuickTransit emulation environment, which is famously at the heart of Apple Computer's "Rosetta" emulation environment. The precursor to QuickTransit was developed by serious propellerheads at the University of Manchester in England, and what they say their software can do sometimes sounds like magic.
For instance, QuickTransit lets applications coded and compiled for Mac OS X on the PowerPC platform to be run unmodified on Mac OS X running on Apple's relatively new Intel Core-based laptops, desktops, and servers. Silicon Graphics was the first company to publicly admit to using QuickTransit back in August 2005, using it to support MIPS-Irix applications on its more modern Itanium-Linux platforms. Intel backed Transitive in March 2005, giving the company the funds to create a variant of QuickTransit that would support Sparc-Solaris applications on X64-Linux platforms. IBM picked up the product soon after to allow X86-Linux binaries to run on Power-based AIX servers, a capability that IBM is slated to provide on new System p machines for free later this year. Earlier this year, Hewlett-Packard put its weight behind the product as well, ponying up the cash to make a Sparc-Solaris to Itanium-Linux variant of QuickTransit, which will allow Solaris applications to run on HP's Integrity line of servers. And in May, even Sun had to concede that QuickTransit could help it convince customers with older Solaris releases and applications compiled for older Sparc iron to move to new X64 iron with the help of a variant of QuickTransit that will ship in December.
Since last year, Transitive came to its senses and started selling QuickTransit directly and began building out a sales channel. It cannot wait for vendors to ask for ports of its products if it wants to grow its business quickly.
The interesting bit about QuickTransit is how the emulation is being married with virtualization. "Most of our enterprise deployments are sold in conjunction with VMware's ESX Server hypervisor, since it makes so much sense to deploy QuickTransit inside of a virtual machine," says Ian Robinson, vice president of marketing at Transitive.
In keeping with the increasingly virtualized server world and with the fact that QuickTransit is not something that is just useful for point-to-point conversions endorsed by a particular vendor, Transitive last week rejiggered the way it packages QuickTransit. The positioning of the products is focusing on moving Sparc-Solaris workloads to other platforms at the moment--since this is what QuickTransit is mostly used for outside of 10 million people using Intel-based Macs today. But it could be extended to cover other Unixes, backports of Linux applications to Unix, or to and from mainframe or other proprietary environments. It all depends on how much a platform provider wants to work with Transitive to make it all happen.
Robinson admits that the open sourcing of Solaris through the OpenSolaris project has certainly made the emulation job easier, too. "One of the reasons why we did such a great job with the Apple product is that we had access to the hardware and software vendor, and we were able to tweak our product to make it better." With Solaris being open source, Intel paying for the port and now Advanced Micro Devices becoming a partner, there really is not much that Sun could do to stop QuickTransit. It is far smarter to see that and then try to leverage QuickTransit, as it has done. (The real question is why Sun didn't have this capability from the get-go in its "Galaxy" Opteron servers.)
Because emulation is important for desktop environments, as the Apple deal demonstrates, Transitive will be selling QuickTransit Workstation, which will run on laptop and desktop. One interested party for this product might be Cisco Systems, which has a set of tools for network administrators that runs on Sparc-Solaris servers; these tools can now run in an emulated Linux environment on a PC. Ditto for BMC Software, which has a number of programs that it sells, which only run on Sparc platforms. With QuickTransit Workstation, BMC sales reps can show off these applications on a laptop rather than bringing prospective clients into a customer center.
QuickTransit Server is the core product sold by Transitive and its reseller partners, and at this point, this includes the QuickTransit variants that port Solaris to X64 or Itanium machines running Linux. And according to Robinson, this is not a one-off product, but aimed at large-scale, virtualized environments, with maybe hundreds or thousands of instances deployed. "This is where the volumes and revenues at Transitive are coming from today," he says. Of course, being a private company, Transitive is not going to talk about how much dough it is raking in. Incidentally, the product for moving applications to Itanium-Linux machines just started to ship last week. As for HP-UX, AIX, or reverse Linux environments (moving Linux applications to Unix), Robinson is a little coy on the idea. "With AIX and HP-UX, we could theoretically do it. But we really want to work with the platform vendors."
QuickTransit Legacy will be a set of products for helping vendors support applications from their legacy environments on new hardware and operating systems, much as SGI did and Sun will do later this year for its Solaris-Galaxy servers. "This is for rescuing a small set of extremely legacy applications from vintage hardware," says Robinson. And the first example will be the above-mentioned QuickTransit port done by Sun, which will help Solaris 2.5.1 and 2.6 applications move over to Opteron and Xeon servers. This will cost more than QuickTransit server, given the legacy lock-in and the greater difficulty of the emulation, of course.
"Our aim is to make it frictionless to virtualize hardware," explains Robinson. "We then have Moore's Law in our favor. The only thing that stops an IT manager from shifting out all of the hardware in the data center every three years after it is all depreciated is the software lock in. Now, it can be as painless as changing the tires on a car."
Transitive last week also announced that in addition to its partnership with AMD, blade server maker Egenera has tapped Transitive to be a member of its alliance partner program. Egenera is chasing that old Sparc-Solaris base, like so many other X64 server makers. Transitive has also added three reseller partners--STA, TotalTec Systems, Net Direct Systems--as resellers for its Sparc-Solaris migration products, bringing its reseller list--not counting HP, Sun, SGI, Apple, and IBM--to thirteen.
Sun Backs QuickTransit for Sparc to X64 Migration
IBM Opens Up Beta for PAVE Linux Runtime on Power Chips
HP Puts Solaris on More X64 Servers, Partners for Solaris Emulation
IBM to Use QuickTransit to Emulate X86 Linux on Power Servers
Transitive Emulator Ports Sparc/Solaris Apps to Linux on Xeon, Itanium
Transitive Gets Backing from Intel for Porting Product
SGI Goes All the Way With Transitive Emulator
Cool Stuff: Transitive Emulates Server Platforms on Other Iron
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