October 16, 2006 9:30 PM PDT

New virtualization option coming to Sun servers

Sun Microsystems plans to introduce a new feature in early January to let its UltraSparc T1-based servers run multiple operating systems simultaneously, partly matching abilities of rival machines from IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

The technology, called logical domains, or LDoms, is the latest move in a race to make servers as flexible and efficient as possible through a general technology called virtualization. Customers using the technology will require the 11/06 update to Solaris 10, due in November, and either new hardware due in January or a firmware update to existing Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers, said Pradeep Parmar, product manager of business strategy for Sun's server group.

For Sun, the LDom approach adds a third, intermediate option when it comes to sharing multiple tasks on a single machine.

For years, customers have been able to carve higher-end Sun servers into slices called hardware partitions with as few as four processors per partition. At the other extreme, when Sun released Solaris 10 in 2005, it introduced technology called containers that makes a single instance of the operating system appear to be separate partitions.

LDom technology, which lets a single processor run as many a 32 independent operating systems, strikes a balance between these earlier approaches. The technology works on Sun's servers using UltraSparc T1 "Niagara" processor, whose design permits 32 separate instruction sequences called threads to run at the same time.

LDoms are arriving a bit later than earlier forecast. Earlier this year, Sun had said the logical domain technology was scheduled to appear in 2006.

IBM and HP lagged Sun when it came to first introducing hardware-partitioning technology to their Unix server lines, but both companies beat Sun to market with virtualization technology to slice up a server more finely than four-processor chunks.

LDoms will work on today's Niagara-based systems, their "Niagara 2"-based successors due in the second half of 2007, and on their high-end "Rock"-based cousins due in 2008, Parmar said.

Sun also is working on building equivalent technology for its x86 servers, which use Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor. There, Sun will use the Xen virtualization software, due to arrive in a Solaris update scheduled to show up in the first half of 2007, said Larry Wake, group manager for Solaris marketing.

Sun's Solaris 10 already is an option for running on VMware, a proprietary virtualization software package, and on Tuesday the Sun Blade 8000 will be certified to run VMware ESX Server 3.0.1.

With Xen, though, multi-OS virtualization will essentially be built into Solaris. Sun will use Solaris as Xen's "dom0" control operating system, which allocates resources to "domU" guest operating systems.

Xen, like VMware ESX Server, will let customers run Linux. Later, Sun plans to use Xen in its Sparc processor-based servers as well, Wake said.

Further changes also are coming to the containers technology. One is the ability to clone a container to make a new copy. Another will be the ability to detach a container and move it to a new server.

And in the update to Solaris due in the first half of 2007, Sun also plans to release its Brand Z technology, which lets Solaris run Linux software in a Solaris container. The technology originally was called Janus and was scheduled to arrive in 2005, but customers kicked it back so Sun could build in the containers support.

Also Tuesday, Sun plans to announce new models of its "Galaxy" line of x86 servers using the AMD's new "Rev F" dual-core Opteron processors.

The chips will be used in revamped "M2" versions of the Sun Fire X4100 and X4200, dual-processor machines available with the new chips now, and the X4600, an eight-processor machine available with the new chips by November.

A Sun Fire X4200 M2 with dual 2220SE Opterons, 8GB of memory, dual power supplies and dual 73GB hard drives costs $9,395; a similarly configured X4200 M2 costs $9,795. Entry models of the same machines cost $2,595 and $2,995, respectively; Sun said it will release prices for the X4600 M2 when it ships.

See more CNET content tagged:
Sun Solaris, Sun Microsystems Inc., virtualization, Xen, Sun Solaris 10

 

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