VirtualBox 3.1 Aims to Bag Enterprise Market

Sun Microsystems this week released VirtualBox 3.1, including several key enterprise features aimed at maintaining minimal downtime on virtualservers.

Ubuntu on Windows XP through VirtualBox

Ubuntu on Windows XP through VirtualBox
(click image to enlarge)

VirtualBox 3.1 has the ability to “teleport” virtual servers — moverunning virtual machines uninterrupted between disparate hosts ondifferent operating systems and computer classes. It also includes afull suite of enterprise hypervisor features.

In addition, VirtualBox 3.1offers more powerful snapshotting features that help administratorsmove a virtual machine backward or forward in time to any arbitrarysnapshot state.

“These new features go a long way to making it more useful. Instead ofjust being a desktop toy, they’ve turned it into something that can bea useful deployment,” Bill Weinberg, principal consultant andindependent analyst for Linux Pundit, told LinuxInsider.

Hyper Toolkit

Version 3.1 is a very interesting release, according to Weinberg, who expected improvements in performance but found much more built intoVirtualBox this time around.

The teleportation feature, for example, breaks VirtualBox out of itsbeginning efforts and into something that will support cloud computing, hesaid. The features add value higher up the stack.

“Today’s enterprises expect to deliver a 24/7, always available,computing service,” said Jim McHugh, vicepresident Datacenter Software marketing at Sun. “The ability to teleport running virtual machinesfrom one computer to another allows system administrators to performessential maintenance with zero downtime of their IT systems. As across-platform hypervisor, VirtualBox allows customers to easilyevaluate and deploy virtualized systems, using their existing x86hardware, operating systems and skillsets.”

Speed Boost

Optimizedmemory handling delivers performance increases of 30 percent over theprevious VirtualBox release, according to Sun.

Network performance shows increased throughput and reduced CPU cyclesthrough a new high-speed, paravirtualized network driver. Also,display performance is improved thanks to a new 2D Video Accelerationfeature for Windows users.

“From a technical point of view, the teleportation feature createsvirtual machines that have zero downtime during maintenance periods.This is a very big deal,” Scott Testa, a professor of businessadministration at Cabrini College in Philadelphia, told LinuxInsider.

Business Cues

The special attention that Sun Microsystems put into version 3.1 showsthat it was deliberately aiming to capture the enterprise market,noted Testa.

For example, the new version has flexibility for use in amultiplatform work environment. For some businesses, not needing ahomogeneous computing environment to deploy virtual machines is very important, he said.

The software works with Windows, Linux, Apple OS X, Solaris, and OpenSolaris.

Pricing and Availability

VirtualBox 3.1 is available for free for personal use as a 50 MBdownload here.

For business deployments within an organization, enterprise licensesor subscriptions start at US$30 per user per year. This includes premium support from Sun’s technical team. Discountsare available based on volume.

VirtualBox 3.1 Highlights

Some added features include:

  • Storage attachments are more flexible. CD/DVD drives can beattached to an arbitrary IDE controller, and there can be more thanone such drive.
  • The network attachment type can be changed while a VM is running.
  • It features a complete rewrite of experimental USB support for OpenSolarishosts making use of the latest USB enhancements in Solaris Nevada 124and higher.
  • Sun says it’s made significant performance improvements for PAE and AMD64 guests [VT-x and AMD-V only; normal (non-nested) paging].
  • It’s added experimental support for EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface).
  • It has support for paravirtualized network adapters (virtio-net).

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