Sun Backs QuickTransit for Sparc to X64 Migration
Published: May 10, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
It was bound to happen eventually, and you can sure bet that Transitive, the creator of the sophisticated QuickTransit emulation environment for servers, was counting on the prospect that it would. Server maker Sun Microsystems has backed the use of QuickTransit as a means to get Sparc-based applications running on Solaris to work on X64 platforms running the Solaris variant for that architecture.
Transitive came onto the scene in the fall of 2004 with a set of software that allows Itanium, X86, and Power processors to support compiled applications that originally ran on MIPS, Power, X86, and mainframe machines. In the spring of 2005, the company launched its products, and rather than sell QuickTransit as a product itself, Transitive decided that the best way to extract the most money out of the market was to sell bullets to all the platform vendors and get them shooting at each other. So it licenses QuickTransit to the server makers and then charges them licensing fees and per user fees to make its dough.
Silicon Graphics was the first to license QuickTransit, using it to support Irix/MIPS applications on its Altix servers, which are based on Itanium processors and which run Linux. Then Apple used QuickTransit to allow it to dump the Power processors used in its computers and move to 64-bit Intel X64 processors. A year ago, Intel wanted to help bolster the Linux on X64 market, and partnered with Transitive to create a variant of QuickTransit expressly for running Sparc/Solaris applications on X64 and Itanium platforms running Linux. This latter product has actually been sold as a standalone product through a reseller channel since last fall. And just this month, IBM announced that it was using QuickTransit to get Linux on X86 applications running on its Power servers running Linux.
Rather than fight QuickTransit, Sun has decided to use the emulation software to its benefit. Many aging Sparc/Solaris systems are running earlier releases of Solaris and applications pegging to earlier hardware platforms, and as such, they are not always easy to move to an X64 platform, even if it is running Solaris 10. Sun offers a binary compatibility guarantee for Solaris, but it only goes back so far and many of the estimated 1.5 million Sparc servers are running very old software; moreover, some applications are using undocumented calls and features that are not part of the guarantee, which always happens in sophisticated and expensive computing environments where customers are trying to wring every drop of performance out of a system.
Sun has come a long way in a few short years, offering excellent Opteron-based "Galaxy" servers as well as low-power "Niagara" Sparc T1 systems. Sun has also cranked the clocks on its dual-core UltraSparc-IV+ processors and offers competitive bang for the buck on these systems, and is offering even more performance in the just-announced Sparc Enterprise servers that are rebadged Sparc64 VI servers from Fujitsu. Solaris 10 has had new life breathed into it by free distribution and open sourcing. And still, vintage Sparc iron persists and companies are still moving applications to Linux or, worse still, they are not moving at all. And hence, Sun's desire to offer its customers the alternative of running emulated Sparc/Solaris applications on its own X64-based servers running Solaris 10.
Sun and Transitive say that the beta of QuickTransit for Solaris/Sparc to Solaris/X86, as the product is known, will be released in beta form in this July, and will be generally available in September. Transitive is looking to sign up over 100 field testers for the beta, and is giving away Apple MacBooks to companies who put the largest Sparc-based applications through the QuickTransit conversion process.
It is unclear if Sun is tying the use of this variant of QuickTransit to its own Galaxy servers, which will soon get Intel processors as well as the existing Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices. Transitive will charge $875 per server processor socket per year for this QuickTransit variant; the price includes the software license as well as one year of technical support. The software can be deployed on a Solaris 10 instance running inside a VMware ESX Server virtual machine partition, and when Solaris is supported in the Xen hypervisor from XenSource, this will be an option as well. Pricing will be available for virtual machine instances as well, but it is unclear if a virtual machine will cost as much as a physical socket.
Transitive and its channel partners will sell this QuickTransit variant, and it could turn out that Sun does as well. Sun might even go so far as to do what IBM is doing with the PAVE environment for System p--giving it away for free, even though the company has to pay Transitive for each license. Sun would be wise to provide QuickTransit for Solaris on each and every Galaxy server.
IBM Opens Up Beta for PAVE Linux Runtime on Power Chips
IBM Breaks Through 2,500 Linux Applications on Power Chips
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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