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Software // Information Management

Sun Sees Virtualization Without VMware or Xen

The company's investment in its Live-Star project could translate into improved software and security distribution models.

A common problem in virtualization circles is how to update the various software images without confusing the operating systems and applications, especially when a security patch or a new software version is applied.

Sun Microsystems on Thursday revealed updated virtualization technology it says uses a layer of abstract data to allow for file system virtualization and run-time content that can be used to update an operating system or application with or without existing virtual machine monitors such as VMware or Xen.

Named "Live *", or Live-Star, the framework is a hardware agnostic platform that includes reusable module instructions for identical read-only images. The two-year-old project stemmed from Sun's virtualization endeavors. Sun Lab researchers suggest the platform could translate into improved software and security distribution models.

"It's like a Lego castle that you can build up and then take apart again," said Sun engineer Olaf Manczak in an interview. "Everything can be updated in a dynamic and reversible fashion so we don't break the application or the operating system."

Manczak said the framework focuses on the structuring of the virtual copies and variants, separating the basic versions from the images in a way that is transparent to existing software from either commercial vendors such as VMware or open-source projects like Xen Source.

Without the emulation layer, Manczak said Live-Star acts similar to a LiveCD where compositions of the file system tree could be broadcast to thousands of servers rather than separately configuring each machine.

Before it makes its way into any of Sun's commercial projects, Manczak said Live-Star still needs to solve some problems including a decision on which language Sun will use at the abstract executable metadata layer, how to deal with conflicting images, and what should be included in temporary snapshots.

Sun expects to do additional demonstrations of Live-Star during the JavaOne show in May in San Francisco.

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