It's official. We just announced our intent to acquire innotek - a small company in Germany with (a) somevery smart people and (b) some very significant technology, called VirtualBox. What is VirtualBox? Well, if you're a hypervisor engineer, then it's best explained as a high performance type 2 hypervisor that uses a combination of virtualization techniques to run many different unmodified operating systems in x86 virtual machines. It's highly portable across multiple hosts and supports a wide range of guest operating systems.
But perhaps that's a bit dry. And you don't need to be a hypervisor engineer to find it extremely useful.
Think of it this way. If you download and install VirtualBox on your laptop - running Windows, MacOS X, Linux or OpenSolaris, you can then run most any other popular Operating System on the same machine. Or several at the same time, depending on what hardware resources are available. The download is around 25Mbytes on most platforms. And what's truly cool about it for developers is that the download is free for personal use, and the code for VirtualBox is GPLv2 open source. So as well as VirtualBox being a cool product and a powerful set of technologies, it's also a community, and a great fit with Sun's broader open source strategies.
We think this tool is incredibly useful for developers - because most developers want to target multiple operating systems to maximise their audience and return on the time they've invested in their applications, and tools like VirtualBox let them do that by running everything - test environments, debug environments, etc. - on a single laptop. How does VirtualBox stack up against the other laptop and desktop options? Well I think it's great, but you don't have to take my word for it - there's a couple of great reviews here and here.
OpenSolaris and VirtualBox
My first conversation with the innotek engineering team was over a year ago. They told me about the work they'd been doing, what VirtualBox was capable of back then, where they were going, and how they'd just made it be an open source project. I was really impressed. And in many ways we've been working on a closer relationship ever since. Things really started to move quickly when we visited them last September. At that time, builds of OpenSolaris had already been working as guests, but after a marathon effort the night before we arrived at their offices, they managed to demonstrate OpenSolaris as a host for VirtualBox - a pretty significant capability for OpenSolaris. I took this screenshot during the first few hours of it working.
VirtualBox is being actively developed with frequent releases and has an ever growing list of features, supported guest operating systems and platforms it runs on.
Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4
and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, and OpenBSD.