Sun VirtualBox 3.1 virtualization software gets live migration upgrade

Version 3.1 of Sun's VirtualBox hosted virtualization software gains new features such as Teleportation, snapshots, and 2D acceleration

Sun is continuing to push its virtualization agenda forward. This week, Sun's VirtualBox virtualization software received a platform refresh and a few significant new features with the announcement of Version 3.1. New features include, believe it or not, a live migration feature called Teleportation, vastly improved snapshot capabilities, and 2-D video acceleration for Windows guest environments.

The most interesting new feature announced with Version 3.1 of VirtualBox is a technology dubbed as "teleportation." The feature enables users to move a running virtual machine between two different host machines, and the host machines don't have to be operating with the same host operating system. According to Sun, the host machines can run different operating systems, be different classes of computer (desktop or server), and run different processor types such as Intel or AMD. Virtual machines can be migrated in this way if a host machine needs to be rebooted or taken down for maintenance.

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Moving virtual machines from an Intel-based machine to an AMD-based machine is a difficult task, but one that many virtualization users would be excited to be able to perform. While the announcement claims migration support for moving from one chip type to another, the user manual states something a bit different. It reads:

The hosts must have fairly similar CPUs. While VirtualBox can simulate some CPU features to a degree, this does not always work. Teleporting between Intel and AMD CPUs will probably fail with an error message.

Still, this live migration feature alone will give VirtualBox and Sun a boost in this competitive market, but teleporting still has a ways to go before it is as mature as some of its competitors' technologies. With Version 3.1, the feature must be invoked from the command line. It also requires the user to manually create identical virtual machine configurations on the host machines where the feature will be used. Disk images must be on a shared storage source that is accessible by both the source and the target machine (nothing new here), and it cannot have any snapshots.

Other interesting features include:

  • Optimizations in the memory handling of the hypervisor improves performance by 30 percent over the previous release.
  • 2-D video acceleration for Windows guests. It uses the host video hardware for overlay stretching and color conversion.
  • VM states can now be restored from arbitrary snapshots instead of only the last one, and new snapshots can be taken from other snapshots as well (aka "branched snapshots").
  • Added support for paravirtualized network adapters (developed around the virtIO standard).
  • The ability to change network attachment types in a running virtual machine.

Sun is making VirtualBox available in two versions. They still have the open source edition under the GPL, but it is only available from Sun as source code. The full version is also a free product, but under a new license: PUEL, or a Personal Use and Evaluation License (for personal use or alternatively for product evaluation purposes). With this license, Sun is also allowing academic use of VirtualBox for free. However, if you don't fall under either of these categories, you will have to purchase a commercial license. Sun is charging $30 per year per machine for 24/7 technical support on a PC or $500 per year for every four sockets on a physical server.

VirtualBox 3.1 is available for download now.

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