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Virtualization, Solaris Win In Sun, Intel Pact

Quoting InformationWeek

Expect more interest in network virtualization and the Solaris operating system thanks to a new relationship between Sun Microsystems and Intel.

At a press conference, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz shook hands on a non-exclusive deal on Monday to primarily help promote Intel's Xeon chips in Sun x86 volume servers. Each company also will contribute engineering, design, and marketing resources to the cause. Intel will certify Solaris as a "mission-critical" operating system. Sun will coordinate its upgrades against Intel's roadmaps and use Intel's single core, dual-core, and multi-core processors for servers, workstations and eventually Network Attached Storage systems.

"One good thing about this partnership is that it creates a lot of sweet spots for Sun and Intel," said Jean Bozman, research VP with analyst firm IDC. "Traditionally, telcos and financial services groups have run customized Solaris programs on [Sun's] Sparc processors. This agreement opens the door for existing and potential Sun and Intel customers who can now migrate and create even more customized programs using OpenSolaris."

Sun has a long-standing vendor relationship with Intel spanning back to the days of the 386i and 486i processors -- and more recently the ill-fated Sun LX50. But for the last three years, Advanced Micro Devices has been Sun's outside semiconductor vendor of choice. That has not and will not change, according to Schwartz.

"We want Solaris to scream on Xeon," Schwartz said during the press event in San Francisco. "Intel has some advantages in I/O and demand-based switching and ultimately, if we do a better job of Solaris on Xeon, we can compete in more markets."

Those markets, according to Otellini, include the financial services and the telecommunications industries, traditionally strong businesses for Sun.

"There are other customers that are working on x86 outside of this company," Otellini noted with a nod toward Intel's relationship with Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM. "From Intel's perspective the snapshot on financial services and telecommunication is a great opportunity. Customers will be looking at how we are very comfortable with our virtualization and better in terms of the advanced energy systems."

Sun's Solaris story also has a strong rooting in virtualization. Similar to OpenVZ/Virtuozzo, Linux-VServer, FreeBSD Jails, and FreeVPS, Solaris's Container's feature lets workers feel like they are working on their own operating system

Sun said it already is looking to organically integrate the VMware and Xen virtualization machines with Intel's new architectures so it can run multiple copies of Solaris on a single machine.

Another benefit: "We can know more about Intel's features in advance and code them better alongside our Solaris releases," said John Fowler, Sun Executive VP of Systems.

Intel's endorsement of Solaris is helpful because telecommunication companies tend to be conservative when purchasing hardware, Fowler said. He also notes that Sun hopes to win back some of the Linux licenses it lost in the last five years to financial services companies that were buying Dell servers with Intel chips and running Red Hat's operating system.

"[Sun] has done very well with AMD and Opteron, but Intel remains the x86 platform leader," says Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT Research. "They've got about 65% to 75% of the market, depending on who you talk to. There are companies out there that would just prefer to run Intel-based servers. This deal gives Sun the wherewithal to go to those customers and say, 'You want choice? We'll give you choice." That's a big thing for a company in Sun's position."

The first batch of boxes from Sun with the new Intel chips inside is expected to be ready for sale sometime before the end of June.

Read or comment on the original, here.

Published Tuesday, January 23, 2007 6:55 AM by David Marshall
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