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Volume 4, Number 44 -- December 6, 2007

Sun to Release xVM Virtualization Under GPL v3 License

Published: December 6, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As part of its "rolling thunder" development and marketing campaign to become a powerhouse in server virtualization, Sun Microsystems this week has announced some more details on its xVM server virtualization products and the related tools to manage them. The company has also announced that the programs that comprise the xVM suite will be available as an open source project under the GNU General Public License v3--the first such Sun product to adopt the new license.

According to Oren Teich, director of marketing, Sun will make the xVM Ops Center tool, which is used to manage physical and virtual servers, available on January 8. Sun had said only a month ago that xVM Ops Center 1.0, which is an amalgam of existing Sun tools with a new and consistent Web interface coded in AJAX, ready for market by December. Considering it is the holiday season, a small slippage means pushing it into the new year. Slip happens, as they say in IT.

The important thing as far as Sun is concerned is getting a product like xVM Ops Center out the door, which does far more than manage virtual machine or logical partitions on Sun iron. xVM Ops Center discovers and inventories servers, updates firmware, performs bare metal provisioning of physical and virtual servers, manages hypervisors, provisions applications inside guest operating systems, and provides compliance reports to ensure that only the right people have access to this capability. The provisioning is done by the N1 Service Provisioning Server, an existing Sun product that was the core of the systems management push Sun made in the wake of the dot-com boom and resulting server sprawl. The tool also combines the Sun Connection Service, which is a patching service that Sun has made available to the Solaris software stack thanks to its February 2006 acquisition of a company called Aduva.

xVM Ops Center is the command and control tool for xVM partitioning, and its goal is to bring a consistent management method to Xen, logical domains (LDoms, for Sparc T1 and T2 chips only so far), Solaris containers, and any other kind of partitioning tool Sun might adopt for its gear. Containers implement virtual private server (VPS) style of partitioning that has a shared kernel and file system pretending to be multiple, distinct servers, while logical or virtual machine partitions have a full guest operating system running atop a hypervisor.

Concurrent with this week's announcement of the xVM Ops Center 1.0 product and its January availability, Sun also divulged pricing for the initial release of the product. The xVM Ops Center satellite server, which allows local deployment of Sun patches, will cost $10,000 a pop, while a subscription to manage server nodes will cost between $100 and $350 per physical node. Teich says that the new code can scale to 5,000 or more nodes, which is considerably more than the 500 to 1,000 nodes that the prior N1 and Aduva products could manage per satellite server. The interesting thing about the xVM Ops Center product and the agent code that Sun is introducing is that it uses RSS feeds coming from the satellite server to send out patch and provisioning data to the agents running on the servers. The agents subscribe to the feeds, and only the agents initiate communication.

The other interesting bit of Sun's announcement this week is the company's plan to release its xVM products under the GNU GPL v3 license. Considering that parts of xVM are based on Xen and governed by the GPL v2 license, this is probably just a matter of taking the path of least resistance. The GPL licensing is also probably why Sun is pitching xVM Server, the actual collection of hypervisors, and xVM Ops Center, the tools to provision and manage, as programs separate and distinct from Solaris and its open source project variant, OpenSolaris. OpenSolaris is governed by Sun's own Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL), and there would almost certainly be licensing issues mixing Xen code and Solaris code together in a single project. (The lawyers would no doubt not even agree on that statement.) Sun has released Java under the GPL v2 license, and could again do so because Java is a free-standing project and code that runs atop of an operating system.

Sun has set up OpenxVM.org as the community where development of xVM code will be done, and will on December 10 make common agent container for xVM source code available through this site. Over time, the entire xVM software stack will be taken open source, according to Teich. This is expected to be accomplished by the end of the first half of 2008.

According to Sun's roadmap, a preview of the xVM Server 1.0 release is expected in January 2008; this will only run on and manage X64-based servers. In March 2008, a preview of xVM Ops Center 2.0 will be available, as will a second preview of xVM Server 1.0. In the second quarter of 2008, the fully integrated and ready for production xVM Ops Center 2.0 and xVM Server 1.0 software will be rolled out. At this point, Sun will support the management of Xen partitions on any X64 machine with xVM Server 1.0, but support for Solaris containers and LDoms with the xVM Ops Center management tool will happen later in 2008--exactly when, Sun is not saying. Solaris containers and LDoms will eventually be rolled into the xVM Server brand, but for now, they are available and standalone features of Solaris.


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