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Sun Takes On VMware

Anders Bylund
September 12, 2008

Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA  ) is getting some serious street cred in the open-source community nowadays. The longtime Unix server builder and Solaris scribe is picking up a host of new skills by buying up small, independent companies with world-class products. The latest example could challenge mighty VMware (NYSE: VMW  ) in the desktop and workstation virtualization markets.

What's all this for?
In xVM VirtualBox, Sun has a very capable, albeit specialized, virtual machine platform. Its original designer, Innotek, joined Sun's brand stable last February, on the heels of database builder MySQL and office software project StarOffice. Together, these three acquisitions made sure that I personally use Sun-sponsored software for almost everything I do on a computer, including writing this article using StarOffice offshoot

VirtualBox now helps me run Linux applications seamlessly on this laptop, where Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows is the main operating system. It's free software that runs on a variety of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) -compatible operating systems like Sun's own Solaris, any flavor of Linux, and even Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Mac OS X. VMware Workstation only runs atop Windows and Linux (though there is a separate application for the Mac freaks out there), so Sun holds a unique card right off the bat.

The target market for this class of virtual machine is a sprawling mix. IT managers can create standard workstation images that will run the same way on any compatible hardware, making for simple and quick management of corporate desktop systems and laptops. Developers can do their testing on a virtual machine, thrash it to b