Sun ships management piece of xVM strategy

Sun's xVM datacenter automation console includes automatic installation of firmware and bare-metal OSes and patch-management tools for SUSE, Red Hat, and Solaris

Sun is expected Tuesday to ship xVM Ops Center, a datacenter automation console compatible with Linux- and Solaris-based x86 and Sparc environments.

Ops Center's features include automatic installation of firmware and bare-metal operating systems; scanning and tracking of servers in a network; and patch-management tools for SUSE, Red Hat, and Solaris, according to a company statement.

James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the last feature is particularly compelling, but not enough to attract a great deal of new business to Sun's platform.

"The patching mechanism they have is very impressive and works with both Linux and Solaris, but given that this is a 1.0 product the appeal will remain mainly with existing Sun customers," he said via e-mail Friday.

"It's a substantially better entry in systems management than their previous attempts, and much more open," he added.

The Ops Center codebase has already been released under the open-source GPLv3 license and is available at www.openxVM.org.

Sun previously said the first commercial version of Ops Center would be available on Jan. 8.

Oren Teich, director of product management and marketing for xVM, said the company needed additional time to make some final tweaks and improvements in areas including firmware provisioning and reporting, following requests from early beta users.

He disagreed with the notion that mainly existing Sun customers will buy the software, saying the company expects that sales will be split between current and new users. While it is a 1.0 release, code from two existing Sun products, N1 System Manager and Sun Connection, are running under the hood of Ops Center's GUI, he said. "In some ways, this is a very mature project."

Yet the first version has a key omission: support for Windows. "Although Windows support is not currently available, we're committed to offering it in the future," Teich said.

Sun is also developing xVM Server, a bare-metal, Xen-based hypervisor with support for Linux, Solaris and Windows guest operating systems.

While Sun's xVM brand stands for "the intersection of virtualization and management," according to Teich, the Ops Center 1.0 release does not feature a broad range of functionality around virtualization. This summer, Sun will release its hypervisor product and "an update to Ops Center that will have a lot of virtualization capabilities on top of it," Teich said.

The company will battle along with leader VMware, Oracle, Microsoft and an array of other vendors for a stake in the virtualization space, which analysts have pegged as remaining wide-open despite the voluminous hype around the topic in recent years.

With Ops Center, Sun will go up against IT management powerhouses such as HP and IBM.

Subscription pricing for Ops Center, with support and network-delivered services, ranges between $100 and $350 per managed server per year.

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