Sun Gets Desktop Virtualization Chops With Innotek Buy

Sun Microsystems is acquiring Germany-based virtualization software providerInnotek and, with it, its increasingly popular open source x86 virtualization product VirtualBox. The deal comes on the heels of Sun’s recent purchase of open source database developer MySQL for US$1 billion.

VirtualBox, which has clocked more than 4 million downloads since its debut in January 2007, according to Sun, enables laptop and desktop units to run multiple operating systems simultaneously. A mouse click takes the user from one system to another and allows the operator to readily access applications that are designed for one OS but not others.

The system’s ease of use allows developers to build, test and run applications on multiple platforms, Sun said.

VirtualBox will extend Sun’s xVM platform onto the desktop and strengthen the company’s position in the virtualization market.

MySQL Sidekick

The Innotek acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed, is an ideal complement to the MySQL deal,said Rich Green, Sun Software’s executive vice president.

“Where Sun xVM Server is designed to enable dynamic IT at the heart of the data center, VirtualBox is ideal for any laptop or desktop environment and will align perfectly with Sun’s other developer-focused assets such as GlassFish, OpenSolaris, OpenJDK and, soon, MySQL, as well as a wide range of community open source projects,” he said, “enabling developers to quickly develop, test and deploy the next generation of applications.”

The Innotek acquisition likely will be completed during the third quarter.

Strong Selling Point

VirtualBox’s open source nature, compact 20-megabyte capacity, and ease in downloading make it an ideal match for any system that runs Windows, Linux, Mac or Solaris operating systems.

“This is really part of Sun making a real pitch for developers, making it easy to get their hands on and try out Solaris,” said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at Illuminata. “It’s more than just Solaris, of course, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s an important asset for Sun.”

That’s because it opens new doors for the Solaris system, Haff told LinuxInsider.

“The idea, from a Solaris perspective, is that developers could have a Windows or Linux laptop and can easily try out Solaris and other software in virtual machines,” he explained. “They can do it to some degree today, but Sun wants to have their own product out there and have some element of control over it.”

VirtualBox is supported by an array of systems, including all versions of Windows from 3.1 to Vista, Linux 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6 kernels, Solaris x86, OS/2, Netware and DOS.

“The company’s strategy to expand its own homegrown virtualization technologies is part of this larger plan to provide a sort of end-to-end computing product,” Charles King, principal at Pund-IT, told LinuxInsider. “The company is vocal in promoting the Solaris x86 as an alternative operating system, and Sun has been very active in promoting x86 on Innotek.”

Sun has a sharp focus on professional software developers, rather than mainstream consumers, King noted.

Long-Term Strategy

Although the Innotek deal is “small scale” compared to the MySQL purchase from a purely financial standpoint, Sun stands to make big gains in a broader context, Haff pointed out.

“Sun could have built something like this, but obviously they decided [that] as an open source project, this was pretty reasonable,” Haff said. “Obviously, Sun felt that they’ll get a pretty good return. [VirtualBox] has been getting some decent buzz, so it seems to give Sun a nice starting point, rather than having to come up with something based on some other code.”

Sun shares gained nearly 4 percent, selling at $17.47 in midday, having closed at $16.81 on Monday. The stock had a 52-week range between $14.20 and $26.04.

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