Sun's wide and deep virtualization strategy

What could Sun possibly bring to the virtualization party? More than Jon Oltsik expected.

Not to be outdone by Microsoft's virtualization coming-out party this week, or next week's VMworld, Sun Microsystems made a whole bunch of virtualization announcements on Wednesday.

The announcements included server virtualization (xVM 1.0, based on the Xen open source project), desktop virtualization xVM VDI), and virtualization management/operations (xVM OpsCenter 2.0).

My colleague Mark Bowker (aka Mr. Virtualization) and I met up with Sun to discuss these pending announcements in August. We arrived at Sun's Menlo Park campus with some skepticism, thinking: "What could Sun possibly bring to this already-crowded party?" By the time we left, we had completely changed our perspectives.

Sun's strategy is pretty simple. First, it has to support its installed base with virtualization products that extend Solaris capabilities. This is a lay-up and should result in incremental business. Second, Sun wants to move beyond its installed base into peripheral hot virtualization opportunities. Desktop virtualization is probably the best example, as it is a burgeoning market and could help Sun sell more servers, Sun Rays, and storage while paving a road for OpenOffice. Finally, Sun wants to play in the virtualization management space regardless of which hypervisor its customers use.

Interestingly, Sun was joined on stage at its announcement by Intel and Microsoft and made sure to announce lots of other partners as well. This is pretty telling to me. Rather than trumpet Solaris and Sparc as the far superior solution, Sun now sees virtualization as a way to extend its reach into enterprise IT and as an olive branch to the rest of the industry.

I, for one, am encouraged by this game plan. Yes, I miss the old days of Scott McNealy wisecracks. But a detente, a bevy of cool supporting technology, and a heterogeneous IT strategy seem like the best way for Sun to return to health.

Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.
 

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