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New version of T1 CPU supports heavy-weight (full hardware) virtualization

It looks like Sun will soon became the first and only hardware vendor that competes in all four virtualization weight categories:

  1. Super-heavy-weight (Hardware domain-based; high-end servers only, essentially  "blades with common memory and I/O devices")
  2. Heavy-weight (full hardware virtualization; Sun calls it "logical domains" new hardware that supports the necessary CPU enhancements is expected the next year; UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers will be the first -- the T2000 server with this capabilities is expected to begin shipping in early 2007). It's unclear if this enhancement will be backward compatible with existing T1-based servers.
  3. Medium-weight (Para-virtualization  based on Xen; only on X86 platform,  Sparc has separate implementation but may be two implementations will merge in the future)
  4. Light-weight virtualization (Zones or jails; currently they have very fuzzy understanding of the limits of this technology and are extending it into medium-weight (you want to run linux application: be my guest and create a special zone).

In comparison IBM mainly competes in just one category (heavy-weight virtualization). Novell and Red Hat also in one category (Xen-based para-virtualization), Microsoft in one category (heavy-weight virtualization), FreeBSD also in one category (light-weight virtualization).

Oracle VM Server for SPARC (previously called Sun Logical Domains) provides built-in and no-cost virtualization capabilities for Oracle's Sun SPARC Enterprise servers with Chip Multithreading (CMT) technology. This technology allows you, the user, to allocate a system's various resources, such as memory, CPUs, and devices, into logical groupings and create multiple, discrete systems, each with their own operating system, resources, and identity within a single computer system.

Oracle Guarantees that application which works on a standlone server, also works in VM environment.

Or more correctly, if your applications were qualified to run on the Solaris 10 OS, Oracle guarantees that they will run on Logical Domains.  For more information, see Solaris 10 Binary Application Guarantee Program. See also LDoms on the HCL.

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[Dec 15, 2010] Sun Containers and Ldoms in less then 5 min VIDEO

Quick 5 min video highlight of Sun Virtualization technologies.

Next video will cover how to implement, configure and deploy LDoms. Watch out for that.

[Nov 10, 2006] Virtually Speaking Sun's Virtual Expansion

With LDoms, enterprises can run up to 32 virtual environments on a single server, Larry Wake, group manager of Solaris OS Marketing, told ServerWatch. Each of those partitions can then be divided further into Containers.

Up to 500 Containers can run on a single instance, though Wake admitted that such a scenario would be unlikely in a real-world deployment. It does, however, demonstrate the server's granularity.

Solaris' Container feature, which delivers essentially application-level virtualization, is a common denominator, between its SPARC and UtraSPARC span systems, Wake said.

Solaris 10 11/06, the next build of the operating system, will be released at the end of November. The version will include new capabilities for Containers. Admins will be able to clone a Container as well as relocate it to another box, through a feature called Attach/Detach, Wake said.

It wasn't just UltraSPARC T1 boxes that got a feature bump this week: x86 environments also received a virtual boost in the flurry of announcements.

In 2007, the systems vendor will offer full support for Xen functionality, this time in the form of a Solaris 10-based Xen hypervisor. Enterprises will be able to run concurrent Solaris 10, Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems as "guests" on a Solaris 10-based virtual machine, and will be able to reap the benefits of Solaris 10, regardless of the operating system running.

... Enterprises looking for a more production-ready x86 virtualization option, will need to be content with increased VMware support, however. Sun Fire x4600 and Sun Blade modular systems can now run VMware ESX 3.0.1.

Sun's remaining three enhancements, though equally touted, were more gravy than meat. The Sun Fire X4000 Galaxy servers have been upgraded with Rev F Opteron, AMD's next-gen Opteron processor and Solaris 10 Operating System.

Sun also announced Solution Customer Workshops, two-day sessions that aim to match customers' needs to Sun technology and determine an appropriate deployment plan. Sun estimates the value of these session as close to $10,000. Presumably, the revenue the systems vendor stands to bring in from the sale will exceed the $10,000 it invested in what is ostensibly a sales pitch.

Finally, Sun introduced the Life Cycle Services for Virtualization program consulting - education and support services to help architect, implement and manage customers' virtualization solutions.

... ... ...

More details on Sun's virtualization efforts can be found, here.

[Nov 10, 2006] IDEAS Insights Sun Logical Domains Open Door To Powerful UNIX Virtualization

October 18, 2006 Sun announced a new virtualization function for its Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers called Logical Domains (LDOMs). LDOMs are partitions that enable UltraSPARC-based servers to run multiple instances of operating systems simultaneously, whereby each instance can consume as little as a single processing thread. LDOMs complement Sun's existing virtualization functions, including Dynamic Domains (i.e. hard partitions) and Solaris Containers (i.e. OS virtualization). Although each of these technologies provide similar capabilities as LDOMs, they have varying levels of granularity and different mechanisms for maintaining isolation between OS instances.

Indeed, LDOMs overcome some of the limitations of both Dynamic Domains and Solaris Containers. For example, LDOMs can be configured to use a fraction of CoolThreads processors, enabling far more precise utilization of server resources than Dynamic Domains, which require partitions to be configured in multiples of four processors. At the same time, LDOMs are more suited for general-purpose workloads than Solaris Containers, because they actually run their own instance of an operating system. Users may also have greater trust in the isolation provided by the firmware-based hypervisor in LDOMs than in the pure software implementation of Solaris Containers (see design presentation - PDF) .

From a purely functional standpoint, Sun's introduction of LDOMs starts to close a competitive gap with its UNIX competitors, including HP and IBM, each of which have UNIX virtualization functions that required fewer compromises than Sun's earlier offerings. For T1000/T2000 users, LDOM's ability to run multiple customized copies of Solaris 10 may facilitate certain types of workload consolidation more flexibly than Solaris Containers, and their firmware-based design may also offer a more reliable platform for hosting Linux workloads compared to the pure software-based implementations of industry-standard virtualization products such as VMware or Xen.

However, the real value of LDOMs, hosting critical UNIX applications with fluctuating workloads more economically by configuring hosts for average usage rather than over-provisioning for spikes, may await implementation on Sun's next-generation high-end server systems based on the Advanced Product Line (APL) processor. Neither Sun nor partner Fujitsu have promised LDOMs on APL-based systems. But on these platforms, which will have the ability to support true SMP implementations rather than the thread-based multiprocessing of CoolThreads, LDOMs will be suitable for efficiently scaling typical UNIX workloads, rather than only new applications with multithreaded designs.

Posted by Tony Iams in Enterprise Servers, System Software | Permalink

[Nov 10, 2006] Jayakara Kini's Weblog Weblog Multiple Solaris Instance on one system

Jun 01, 2006 Logical Domains support was integrated into Solaris Nevada on May 16th. With Logical Domains (LDoms), it would be possible to simultaneously run more than one instance of Solaris on one box.

LDoms is supported only on sun4v systems (with UltraSparc T1 processors). So, why is only sun4v systems supported? Thats because the UltraSparc T1 processor has Hypervisor support built in. The firmware on sun4v systems also support it. At this time the there are only two sun4v models: T1000 and T2000.

LDoms support for Solaris 10 is being integrated sometime in the next month. After that both Solaris 10 and Solaris Nevada can be run simultaneously on one system.

To use the LDoms features:

At the time of writing this, the firmware and the LDoms manager is not available outside Sun.

I have some doubts here for which I did not find any documentation:

Well, I guess these would be answered soon. Anyway, the possibilities of its usage, combined with Zones, is numerous. I have been amazed by some of our customers who use Solaris in ways we did not even think is possible. With LDoms and Zones, I'm sure it'll keep happening...

[Nov 10, 2006] Sparks and White Noise T1 Hypervisor and Logical Domains

October 02, 2006. Many people may not remember, but when the T1 was announced, it was stated it had a built-in hypervisor. Of course, now lots of people have their T1000's and T2000's. It would appear that Sun will release at some point a firmware upgrade to enable this feature to create Logical Domains so you can carve up a T1 based server.

Each LDOM will have it's own OBP instance and act just like a normal Solaris SPARC environment. The kicker is that this is all in firmware! This is not Zones or Xen. I see this as a huge step in the right direction for Sun and can only hope that it gets released soon. Here's an interesting article on the subject that gives a good idea of what will be possible. I especially like the slide on page 3 that shows CPU, Memory, and *I/O* being virtualized with the next version of Solaris. I'm really interested in finding out more about these features.

With these kinds of features in such a small package, it opens up a lot of possibilities for virtualization and consolidation. With the ability to have LDOM's running different versions of Solaris (10, 10u2, Solaris Express, etc) and run zone's inside of those domains is really interesting. This could benefit developers, engineers, and of course production environments. When the Niagara II servers come out, the performance will be there to take this to the next level. Of course, we'll all have to wait and see how this will unfold.

NOTE: If Sun needs a beta tester, I'm available:)

Sun Ponders the Future of Virtualized Solaris by Timothy Prickett Morgan

November 2, 2006 (The Unix Guardian)
... ... ...
Sun is picking up a theme from the VMware subsidiary of EMC , which last year announced a tool called the VMware Player. With VMware Player, users can move their virtual machines around and "play" them on any X86 or X64 machine. At the time, VMware conceived of VMware Player as not just a tool for using VMs, but also as a new means of distributing software--in essence, a virtualized stack of software would be put in a VMware format and distributed using VMware Player, making this a virtual shrink wrapped box.

According to Ratcliffe, Sun is also thinking virtual machines are a means of distributing software, a kind of rapid deployment methodology that, to its credit, Sun was talking about years ago when it started up its N1 sales pitch to dot-com customers. Ratcliffe says that Sun will be encouraging customers to use virtualization tools to wrap and distribute applications.

"A lot of the focus on virtualization has been on running multiple operating systems on a server," explains Ratcliffe. "We are working on delivering pre-built stacks that are not just software on a DVD, but a set of fully integrated, pre-tested, and actually running software. We think this is the most interesting part of virtualization, and that it will become the standard way of deploying software. It will let you go from a dead, cold system to a running system in seconds."

Another thing that Sun is working on is expanding its Solaris container technology so it will be able to support earlier releases of Solaris on a machine that is running the latest release. Unfortunately for the 1.5 million or so Sparc/Solaris boxes out there in the world (that's my estimate), Sun cannot allow Solaris containers on a Solaris 10 machines to support Solaris 9, 8, 7, or 2.6 applications. The guts of the Solaris kernel in those versions of Sun's Unix are so different that they cannot easily be made to share a kernel and file system, which is how Solaris containers work. But, the good news is that when the next version of Solaris comes out--say it is called Solaris 11--this version will be able to support Solaris 10 containers. And so will Solaris 12, Solaris 13, and so on be able to support Solaris 10 containers, too. In the future, customers could upgrade their systems and operating systems to a new version or release, but leave their applications alone on prior releases, not having to port and recertify them until they see a need to.

On the virtual and logical machine hypervisor front, Sun is also expecting some of the key features of the Solaris 10 platform to give it an edge over competing implementations of these same technologies. "Today, the rush is to make sure you have the right mix of hypervisor technology to run multiple operating systems," says Ratcliffe. "We think this is going to change. We think people are going to want more functionality in their hypervisors."

So when Sun rolls out support for the Xen hypervisor in the first half of 2007, expect the company to make a big deal about the DTrace system telemetry, its related predictive self-healing, and user rights management features, and various security features that are all part of Solaris 10 today. "The way we will implement Xen will bring the benefits of Solaris 10 to operating systems that do not have these features," says Ratcliffe. "So rather than trying to make Solaris the operating system of choice, Solaris becomes the strategic choice of hypervisors."

For example, customers will be able to, for example, run a DTrace on Windows applications running on a Galaxy box inside Xen virtual machines, and thereby be able to better tune them and perhaps boost their performance or reduce the amount of resources they consume.

Of course, a hypervisor is just a new kind of single point of failure, and Sun as well as its customers are well aware of this. So Sun will be creating virtual machine methodologies that will checkpoint and snapshot running VMs from time to time, offering customers a chance for recovery.

But this capability of snapshotting and moving whole stacks of software also presents an interesting dilemma. "If you can checkpoint an entire system and recreate it, is this a security risk," asks Ratcliffe.

Sun has already developed data labeling technologies in the Trusted Extensions to Solaris, which are coming in the 11/06 update, that won't allow people with the wrong clearances to see data on a screen or move it to peripherals. Virtual machines will need similar kinds of controls and tight security. You won't have to hack an operating system any more, but just steal the hypervisor and software stack and hack it later at your convenience.

[Nov 10, 2006] Feature Story Sun's Approach to Virtualization

New sun4v platform

Sun Microsystems' comprehensive approach to virtualization lets customers apply the right technology in the right place at the right time. Today Sun is expanding its offerings with new systems, technologies, services, and tools that make it even easier for customers to simplify datacenters and maximize resource use through virtualization:

A Comprehensive, Flexible Approach

For an enterprise to be as agile and efficient as possible, Sun understands that virtualization must be available everywhere-at the server level, the network level, the desktop, and in storage solutions. Unlike competitors that take a one-size-fits-all approach, for years Sun has been providing a range of technology choices that span the datacenter to address customers' unique needs.

Sun's approach to virtualization provides both bottom-line and environmental benefits. Energy-efficient systems from Sun that provide high compute density in small footprints enable customers to reduce the amount of space required, resulting in real estate, power, and cooling savings. Sun technologies also allow customers to consolidate servers and applications onto fewer systems for improved resource utilization, simplified IT management, and lower costs.

Sun's virtualization and consolidation capabilities help customers reduce IT costs by as much as $2 million a year, achieve 99.99 percent availability, deliver up to 80 percent system utilization, and simplify infrastructure management. Key technologies include the following:

Sun's Latest Innovations

At the core of Sun's virtualization approach is making it easy for customers to optimize their Web tier and business tier infrastructures. New innovations include the following:

Virtualization Made Simple

Sun is also offering a number of new and enhanced services, methodologies, and tools to make datacenter virtualization as easy as possible for customers:

By giving customers all the innovations needed to truly optimize their datacenters, Sun's comprehensive virtualization approach lets businesses reap cost savings today and more easily take advantage of opportunities tomorrow. Continued innovation will ensure that Sun remains on the cutting edge of virtualization advancements well into the future.

For more information go to >

[Nov 7, 2006] Heads up Logical Domains for sun4v platforms support in Nevada at

With the putback of

  6391870 LDoms v1.0 Solaris Changes

Solaris Nevada now supports the Logical Domains (LDoms) feature. This provides the ability to create multiple software partitions on sun4v based platforms. Each of those partitions can run a separate instance of Solaris without affecting any other.

The LDoms product as a whole (Firmware and Solaris) implements the following ARC cases:

  Case Number                                           Case Description
   ----------------                                          -----------
FWARC 2005/633				Project Q Logial Domaining Umbrella
FWARC 2006/055				Domain Services
FWARC 2006/074				sun4v interrupt cookies
FWARC 2006/072				sun4v virtual devices machine description data
FWARC 2006/110				Domain Services MD node and other misc properties
FWARC 2006/105				LDOM support for NCP
FWARC 2005/739				sun4v channels
FWARC 2006/184				sun4v channels shared memory
FWARC 2006/140				sun4v channels transport protocol
FWARC 2006/195				Virtual IO Communication Protocol
FWARC 2006/135				sun4v channel console packets
FWARC 2006/075				Channel devices, Virtual Disk client and server  
FWARC 2006/076				Virtual Network Client and switch Bindings
FWARC 2006/081				Virtual Logical Domain Channel (vldc) Bindings
FWARC 2006/086				LDOM Variables
FWARC 2006/117				Virtual Console Concentrator Bindings
FWARC 2006/141				FMA Domain Services
FWARC 2006/174				NCS HV Update
PSARC 2006/152				Logical Domain Channels Transport API

Firmware Information

In order to use Logical Domains, firmware that includes support for LDoms is required. These firmware images are currently released by the LDoms team. More information on how to prepare and install a sun4v machine to use LDoms can be found at the following location:

Bug Filing

A new bugster product 'ldoms' has been created for filing bugs against Logical Domains software. The responsible manager is jay dot jayachandran at sun dot com and any Solaris bugs in the 'ldoms' product should be filed under one of the following newly created categories/subcategories:

      Cat/Subcat       Description
      ----------       -----------
      solaris/misc     LDoms Miscellaneous Solaris bugs
      solaris/dr       LDoms Dynamic Reconfiguration Solaris bugs
      solaris/io       LDoms Virtual I/O Solaris bugs
      doc/doc          LDoms Documentation bugs
If there are any questions on LDoms, please contact ldoms- internal at sun dot com Sincerely, Logical Domains Software Tea

[Nov 7, 2006] Sun servers to get new multi-OS abilities By Stephen Shankland

January 25, 2006, SAN FRANCISCO--Sun Microsystems later this year will introduce virtualization technology to let its newest Sparc-based servers run multiple operating systems simultaneously, thus catching up to a feature already built into Unix machines from rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

The technology, called logical domains, will be added to Sun's two UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers--the T2000 server Sun began shipping in December and the T1000 it plans to begin shipping in February, said David Yen, executive vice president of Sun's Scalable Systems Group.

"This calendar year, on the T2000 and T1000, we will introduce our first generation of virtualization to bring people beyond the container technology Solaris 10 already offers," Yen said in a meeting with reporters and analysts at Sun's offices here. "We have real customers demanding it," particularly in the financial services industry, he added in a later interview.

Running multiple operating systems is useful for making a single computer more efficient and is a major trend in the server market today. Building the feature into Sun servers will address a key piece that's been missing from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's mainstay product line.

Sun is feverishly working to restore its server group's fortunes. The company's server shipments dropped 6 percent in its most recent quarter.

To run multiple operating systems on a Sparc server now, Sun has offered only hardware partitions, a relatively inflexible method that lets higher-end Unix servers be subdivided into four-processor partitions. At the other end of the spectrum, a Solaris 10 operating system feature called containers lets a single instance of the operating system appear to be several--but that technology offers less protective isolation for different applications.

"This is something that Sun has needed to do for a long time in order to get parity with HP and IBM," said Gabrial Consulting analyst Dan Olds. The next step will be to make sure the feature fits into higher-level management tools, he said. "They need to show customers that their systems have the ability to manage IT resources according to business need--without human intervention--in order to catch up to HP and IBM."

The movement to run multiple operating systems on a single server has been maturing long enough that even comparatively lowly x86 servers have the ability through use of VMware's virtual machine software. And an open-source software project called Xen is under way with similar features.

Xen is the future, Yen said. Although the company developed its own logical domain software, Sun eventually expects it will become one with Xen.

"Eventually we expect Xen will get industrywide acceptance, and we'd like to be part of it. Some time, probably in the second half of 2007, we will merge," Yen said.

John Fowler, who as head of Sun's Network Systems Group is Yen's counterpart, said Xen for his x86 server group is gradually maturing.

"A lot depends on Xen 3.0 getting done. This is not up to marketing intent but to the engineering gods," Fowler said. "This kind of software is pretty hard. There's rocket science in elements of the stack and in making sure you get it right and it doesn't fall over."

Xen and operating system companies "have talked optimistically about this spring" for Xen 3.0, but "I think it'll take a little bit longer. I think this year is very possible," Fowler said.

Firming up firmware
The logical domain feature will be available in an update to the T1000 and T2000 firmware, software that runs at a lower level than the operating system, Yen said. The update won't degrade performance or require customers to recertify their software, he added.

That firmware has another important function, Yen said. It provides a new foundation for Solaris. As Sun worked to move Solaris to x86 chips such as Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, the company realized it needed a more flexible connection between the operating system and the chip it's using. The firmware provides that new interface, he said.

"All Solaris has to do is talk to the API (application programming interface) presented by that layer," he said.

The layer also will ease development for the programmers who work on Linux for Sparc-based computers, Yen said. "To facilitate Linux porting...we will publish the API for the internal firmware," he said.

Sun will release the underlying hardware description of the UltraSparc T1 by the end of March, he reiterated. And Sun will also release its UltraSparc 2005 specifications, which detail extra features Sun's chips have that aren't in the Sparc V9 standard promulgated by the Sparc International organization.

Sun has shipped thousands of T2000 systems so far, Yen said. Most customers are buying just one or two for evaluation purposes, but a global telecommunications company placed an order on Tuesday for 75 of the machines, he said.

Yen said that late this quarter or early next quarter, T2000 and T1000 customers will get a new option: an expansion device that increases the number of input-output slots that are available.

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