Wednesday May 21, 2008

Virtualization Smackdown!

ZDNet is running the first head-to-head comparison review of an xVM product vs. a VMware product!  Go check it out here.  This review of xVM VirtualBox 1.6 vs. VMware Server 2.0 does a really good job of bringing out the core strengths of VirtualBox.  Here are some good quotes:

  • xVM VirtualBox has the clear advantage of being the only free personal/SMB virtualization product that runs on all the major computing platforms
  • The software is also extremely light, weighing in at only a 22MB download
  • setup is extremely easy
  • we found VirtualBox xVM performance to be excellent


Great job VirtualBox team!  I spent Saturday installing more operating systems inside VirtualBox at SuperHappyDevHouse.  I showed it to a number of people and they were all really impressed.  Several downloaded it and installed it right there.  The more people that find out about this, the more fall in love with it.

Now, I can't wait for the xVM Server vs. VMware ESX Smackdown to start this Summer! 

Tuesday May 13, 2008

All Things Virtual

A great article over at Dr. Dobbs that includes an interview with our own Vijay Sarathy.  Worth a read to understand the foll scope of what we're doing in xVM-land.  Check it out.


Sunday May 11, 2008

My Weekend with xVM VirtualBox 1.6

I did a quick install of xVM VirtualBox 1.6 a bit more than a week ago.  Then I got sucked into the JavaOne vortex, so it wasn't until Saturday that I got some really quality time to play with it.  So, I sat down on my Dell home PC (at XPS 400 if you must know) and set about trying some new things.

The first thing I decided to do was install the new OpenSolaris.  It was very smooth, and is even slicker than the Developer Preview 2 I'd done previously with VirtualBox 1.5.  One of the things I noticed after I booted from the Live CD image was that I was only using one CPU core doing the install (no surprised that this is a single threaded process).  So, I decided to get really greedy and created a second VM and installed the newest Ubuntu 8.0.4 release at the same time.  Here's a little picture of what it looks like (click the image for a full size link).

Installing OpenSolaris and Linux simultaneously on top of Windows XP -- how crazy is that?!?  The scary thing is, that it works like a dream.  The really scary thing is that I'm a relative newbie at using VirtualBox and I'm barely UNIX literate (having spent my early career developing on Mac and mostly using Windows these days for my work computers).  While a Solaris install may once have been only for certified Solaris system admins, that doesn't need to be the case anymore.

Now, there were a couple of little gotchas where I needed help (but Google was very helpful at finding me some pages).  The first thing I needed help with was getting the OpenSolaris networking going inside VirtualBox.  It turns out I had to change the default VirtualBox network adapter Intel Pro/1000MT from PC Net-Fast III and I was on my way.  Second thing I needed help with was installing the OpenSolaris guest additions.  The "guest additions" are software bits that you install into the guest OS that allows it to integrate with VirtualBox very tightly.  VirtualBox makes this easy by providing a menu item to automount a phantom CD-ROM to the desktop of the guest with all the software you need, but you must use a few commands to get it installed (any Solaris admin would know what to do -- I'm not a Solaris admin).  Fortunately, there is a nice little entry someone put together comp-sos web site that walks you through the whole thing.  Very Nicely Constructed!  xVM pubs team should take note!

Doing the Ubuntu install was also very straight forward.  I know the VirtualBox team has been working wth Ubuntu for a long time, and it shows.  Again, the only thing that stumped me was the details on installing the guest additions.  However, I quickly found this article that made it all clear.

Kudos to the VirtualBox and OpenSolaris teams.  Two major releases that work great together!

Friday May 02, 2008

xVM VirtualBox 1.6 Released!

Just in time for CommunityOne xVM VirtualBox is out.  The world's most popular, open source desktop virtulization engine has just released a major new revision.  I just downloaded it from and got it up and running really quickly.  Here's a quick list of just  a few of the 2,000 improvements in the newest release:

  • Solaris and Mac versions no longer in beta
  • Guest Additions for Solaris
  • Seamless windowing for Solaris and Linux guests
  • SATA support for up to 32 hard disks per VM (first product in the industry to do SATA!)
  • PAE support for guests (memory model required by some server OSes)
  • Significant improvements to scalability


Friday Apr 25, 2008

xVM in eWeek

eWeek just published an interview I did with them a while back.  I actually did this back just before we announced the innotek acquisition, but wound up doing an update of it with the writer before it got published.  That seemed to mess up their publishing calendar and then took a while to get back to the top of the queue for publication.  Anyway, I think it came out really well.  Go on over and check it out.

Monday Feb 18, 2008

Open Solaris in a Box

So, I just did my first Open Solaris install!  I just put the new Developer Preview 2 of OpenSolaris into a VirtualBox VM.  Seems to be working great (running on top of Microsoft Vista!).  Here's a picture of the VirtualBox UI with my VM and Disk Image displayed.


Here's a picture of the VM running inside VirtualBox. You can click to see it fun

The one tip I can give you if you try this yourself is that you'll need to bump up the size of the default video RAM size on the VM from the default 8 MB.  Otherwise you won't be able to boot.  However, this was really easy in the VirtualBox control panel.

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

VirtualBox Coverage

Tuesday Feb 12, 2008

This Isn't Your Dad's Desktop Virtualization

Today, Sun announced it has signed an agreement to acquire a small, German company called innotek.  innotek is the developer of the super slick VirtualBox application.  I think his is a huge deal for xVM, and even Sun as a whole, and I wanted to take a minute and tell you why.

I remember the first developer desktop virtualization product I ever bought.  It was 1994 and I was running a small Mac-only, boutique software development house.  We wanted to port our most popular Mac application to Windows (heresy, I know!).  I had limited desk space in my little office and I didn't want to buy a PC -- lest it fill up my entire desk.  Instead, I bought a PowerMac 6100 DOS Compatible system.  This crazy little computer was a standard PowerPC-based Macintosh with a funny half-height daughter card carrying a 486 processor.  You could actually run Mac System 7 and Windows 3.1 AT THE SAME TIME and switch between them quickly.  It was totally crazy, but I totally loved it.  I was able to swap back and forth between these two OSs on the fly and test different versions of my app.  In the end, solutions like this were pretty expensive, and the performance/$ sucked, so they died off.  However, thanks to virtualization, the idea has resurfaced in much more viable software-only form in recent years.

VirtualBox is software designed to allow users to run multiple operating systems on top of whatever OS they currently have installed.  Whether you choose Windows, Mac, Linux or Solaris as your default desktop of choice, VirtualBox will ride on top of it and allow you to "host" any arbitrary collection of operating system instances.  Software developers everywhere are starting to discover this way of operating, and these desktop virtualization solutions are quickly becoming part of the common developer toolkit.  In fact, these days there are several pieces of software that offer some of this functionality, but VirtualBox is unique because it's completely free and open source, and supports almost every OS known to man.  It's no wonder that it's been downloaded over four million times in just over a year.

Now, as cool as VirtualBox sounds, some folks may be thinking that this sounds awfully similar to the xVM Server product we announced back in November.  Is this redundant?  Certainly xVM Server and VirtualBox both offer a computer the ability to run multiple operating systems.  However, xVM Server and VirtualBox are products targeted at radically different markets.  Here's how I look at these.

Sun xVM Server is a bare-metal hypervisor.  This means it installs directly on the hardware, not on top of an existing operating system.  It's a purpose-built software appliance with functionality to enable server consolidation and dynamic IT.  It includes high-end, data center features like live VM migration and dynamic self-healing.  This is datacenter grade virtualization.  Along with Sun xVM Ops Center, xVM Server will become the engine that drives a dynamic data center.

VirtualBox is what is technically referred to as a type-2 hypervisor.  It's an application that installs on top of an existing operating system.  VirtualBox supports Windows, Linux, Mac and Solaris hosts, which means you can use it with your laptop no matter what OS you choose for your "native" environment.  This makes VirtualBox a software developer's dream.  You can easily set up multiple virtual machines to develop and test your multi-tier or cross platform applications -- all on a single box!  VirtualBox doesn't have xVM Server's data center features, like live migration, but it's incredibly light-weight.  I installed it this weekend.  The download was only 17 MB and the install took only minutes.  In less than 15 minutes from when I started the download until I was ready to start installing guests.

So, the way I look at it, VirtualBox really fills out Sun's virtualization suite.  Where xVM Server is competitive with something like VMware ESX Server, VirtualBox is more like VMware Workstation/Fusion or Parallels Desktop.  Except of course, that VirtualBox supports more host platforms than any of these products, and is open source and free!

So, this is all good, but if we're going to continue to give it away, why is Sun investing in VirtualBox?  In short, because the developers that build applications have a huge amount of influence on how they're deployed.  We believe that developers using VirtualBox can help guide their friends in the data center towards xVM Server as the preferred deployment engine.  Beyond that, I think there is a huge opportunity to link with Sun's other developer-related assets like NetBeans, Glassfish and (soon) MySQL. Imagine the virtual software appliances we can create using these assets, and developers will be able to start using them instantly, making it way easier to install and configure these things.

If you haven't heard of VirtualBox, that's OK.  Despite it's gaining popularity, it seems there are still lots of people to tell.  In fact, in December, (an affiliate of eWeek) called it "The best virtualization program you've never heard of."  For another recent review of VirtualBox, you can go check out Techthrob, which favorably compares it vs. several other options.  However, the best thing you can do is go download it yourself and check it out.  Now with Sun behind it, you can bet a lot more people will hear of it soon! 



Thoughts on cloud computing, virtualization and data center management from Steve Wilson, Oracle engineering VP.


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