It's official. We just announced our intent to acquire innotek - a small company in Germany with (a) some very smart people and (b) some very significant technology, called VirtualBox. What is VirtualBox? Well, if you're a hypervisor engineer, then it's best explained as a high performance type 2 hypervisor that uses a combination of virtualization techniques to run many different unmodified operating systems in x86 virtual machines. It's highly portable across multiple hosts and supports a wide range of guest operating systems.
But perhaps that's a bit dry. And you don't need to be a hypervisor engineer to find it extremely useful.
Think of it this way. If you download and install VirtualBox on your laptop - running Windows, MacOS X, Linux or OpenSolaris, you can then run most any other popular Operating System on the same machine. Or several at the same time, depending on what hardware resources are available. The download is around 25Mbytes on most platforms. And what's truly cool about it for developers is that the download is free for personal use, and the code for VirtualBox is GPLv2 open source. So as well as VirtualBox being a cool product and a powerful set of technologies, it's also a community, and a great fit with Sun's broader open source strategies.
We think this tool is incredibly useful for developers - because most developers want to target multiple operating systems to maximise their audience and return on the time they've invested in their applications, and tools like VirtualBox let them do that by running everything - test environments, debug environments, etc. - on a single laptop. How does VirtualBox stack up against the other laptop and desktop options? Well I think it's great, but you don't have to take my word for it - there's a couple of great reviews here and here.
OpenSolaris and VirtualBox
My first conversation with the innotek engineering team was over a year ago. They told me about the work they'd been doing, what VirtualBox was capable of back then, where they were going, and how they'd just made it be an open source project. I was really impressed. And in many ways we've been working on a closer relationship ever since. Things really started to move quickly when we visited them last September. At that time, builds of OpenSolaris had already been working as guests, but after a marathon effort the night before we arrived at their offices, they managed to demonstrate OpenSolaris as a host for VirtualBox - a pretty significant capability for OpenSolaris. I took this screenshot during the first few hours of it working.
That's IE running inside in Windows XP in the foreground, displaying the opensolaris.org home page. The next day was even more exciting when they showed me seamless mode - applications running under XP sitting on the OpenSolaris desktop in the image below.
Windows Media Player running on the OpenSolaris desktop - whatever next?
For people running OpenSolaris, there's a new beta version of VirtualBox that's just been posted on the virtualbox.org site. Alternatively you can build it from source by following the instructions that Joe Bonasera posted on his blog.
Have fun with it!
Technorati Tag: OpenSolaris
Technorati Tag: VirtualBox