By richgreen on Feb 12, 2008
Fresh on the heels of our announcement to acquire MySQL, Sun just revealed our intent to acquire Innotek. Located in Germany, Innotek is staffed with a bunch of very, very smart folks who have developed and released the highly popular open source desktop virtualization product, VirtualBox. With more than 4 million downloads to date, and a slew of great reviews, VirtualBox is setting the V-biz on its collective ear. After all, it's free - as in zero dollars – for developers to learn, understand, enhance and contribute to the ever growing community around the technology. And it smacks of freedom because it's all open source (GPL v2) as well as the cross/multi platform ability it gives to developers.
I'll leave it up to others at Sun, and Innotek to explain the technical details – of Type 1 versus Type 2 hypervisors and the like, but suffice it to say that this announcement dramatically enhances the value chain that Sun's xVM program will offer to the open source community and developers worldwide. Of course, I'm required to say the acquisition hasn't closed yet and its completion is subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.
As you know, last year at Oracle OpenWorld, Jonathan, Steve Wilson and I announced Sun's xVM program – bringing server virtualization and datacenter automation together in an integrated, multiplatform, open source offering. The program is zipping right along, with xVM Ops Center deployed now at TACC . I'm rather thrilled with the status and the potential for xVM. Free and freedom for the virtualization world.
But the grand plan, inclusive of Innotek, and like most everything we do in software at Sun, has a focus on developers. Innotek and VirtualBox will affect how things look for developers months and years out – in the world of virtualization that has developers as well as datacenters at its core.
If you want to understand where we're going here, think snow globes. Snow globes? Yea, those cute little plastic things that present an entire 'world under glass' to their lucky owners. Much like these little worlds, desktop virtualization is the key to creating a working implementation, on a developer's laptop, that can include much or all of the machinery that resides in the server farm, or the deployment environment. Using desktop virtualization you can construct a world with multiple operating system images, GlassFish, Apache, MySQL, Java, Ruby/Rails and so on, running in multiple virtual partitions on one's laptop. Processes communicating at local bus speeds, debugging across virtual instances. An image in miniature of the server environment – physical or virtual – where all of this machinery will ultimately run. A snow globe. Get it?\*
Of course, here's where the analogy breaks down – for the better. It's not very hard to imagine a collection of tools such as Netbeans, VirtualBox and xVM Server such that the work on the laptop can slide across the network to one or a collection of systems in the server farm or the cloud. Running virtually or physically, with management services built in at the tool level, to aid in the automation provided by xVM Ops Center. If live migration can work across servers, why not from laptop to server, and back?
All rather exciting. It doesn't take a lot of squinting to see that virtualization and virtual appliances, from the desktop, to the server, using powerful tools and management, along with today's open source platforms and scripting capabilities, further accelerate the build-out of dynamic datacenters and the web economy. And another piece of the puzzle, Innotek and VirtualBox, soon to be part of Sun, speeding this all along.
\* Many thanks to Rob Gingell, ex-Sun Chief Engineer and Sun Fellow for the snow globe analogy. Clever as always.