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Define and Compare: Virtualization Technologies for Solaris

Run Solaris 2.6 and 2.7 applications unchanged on Solaris 9 and 10

"So, VMware ... separate hardware from OS = virtual server, right? Well, we're like that but completely different - we separate application from OS = virtualized application." Because we're in the vast virtualization market space with a technology that is unique (patented), I am often asked to differentiate AppZero's server-side application virtualization from the rest of the pack. Especially in the Oracle/Sun/Solaris/SPARC context.

And especially since we've been promoting a Webinar series drawing a straight line from ancient Solaris 2.6 and 7 applications to execution on OS and hardware from this millennium. (We broke the marketing bank naming the webinars: "Virtualize-2-Modernize; Solaris 2.6 + 7 applications run unchanged on 9 + 10" and the follow-on "How to run Solaris 2.6 and 2.7 applications unchanged on Solaris 9 and 10")

Good news/frustrating news
So I've recently been immersed in SPARC-dom through the "Virtualize-2-Modernize" series, in tandem with doing exactly that type of Solaris application modernization work for some household name clients. The good news is that our customers clearly see AppZero's value proposition and ROI as very high. Understanding and adoption go hand-in-hand - as do confusion and delay. What is so frustrating to me is that this clear value proposition is too often occluded by confusion surrounding the various flavors of virtualization in this market.  Specifically:

  • Oracle VM Server for SPARC, the technology formerly known as Logical Domains (LDOM) - This server hardware virtualization and partitioning technology was released in 2007 by Sun and rebranded since Oracle's acquisition of the company in 2010.
  • Solaris Containers/Zones (global, non-global, branded) -- First made available in 2005 as part of Solaris 10, this operating system-level virtualization accommodates applications running on isolated virtual servers within a single OS instance.
  • AppZero Solaris application virtualization - First shipped in 2006, AppZero separates an application from the OS, capturing that application and its dependencies in isolated capsules that can execute on a single Kernel OS instance. For example, AppZero encapsulates Solaris 2.6 and 7 applications with enough OS distinctives that they can execute on the newer OS versions. (Copied and run, the applications are not installed in the traditional sense although they execute as if they were.)

It's easy to delineate LDOM/hypervisors and application virtualization; it's trickier to come up with a one-liner for containers/zones. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that this Solaris technology and AppZero's Solaris application virtualization solution both use analogous approaches to create isolated application executions on a single OS kernel instance. For those of you interested in differentiated elephants and nuances, I've included a comparative matrix at the end of this blog.

Differentiation by use case
In the meantime, AppZero use cases are clear. Tuned for rapid provisioning (what we call "ZeroInstall"), AppZero enables moving/copying a pre-installed, pre-configured application to any machine to be up and running in seconds. This resultant extreme agility has direct value for:

  • ISVs who want rapid provisioning of demos and proof of concept (POC) as well as fast distribution of software.
  • Provisioning of applications for scaling and de-scaling in a cloud.
  • Moving applications from data center to the cloud ... to another cloud ... and back ... etc.
  • Reducing OS and image sprawl by dynamically applying "gold OS" and "gold application" images.

And in a category almost by itself ....

  • Modernizing old Solaris 2.6 and 7 applications - separating them from the kernel - so they can move to Solaris 10, enjoying all the benefits of hardware and Solaris services from this millennium.

Differentiation by attributes
Inspired by a recent Peter Baer Galvin blog, "Pete's all things Sun: comparing Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise and AIX" I offer this matrix comparing the technologies. I welcome your comments, refinements, and (should the unthinkable happen) corrections.




AppVirt: AppZero

Isolation level

hardware from OS

Kernel OS from user space OS

Kernel OS from user space OS

Virtualization view

1 hardware(server) surfaces many  virtual machines instances

1 Kernel OS surfaces many  OS instances

1 Kernel OS surfaces many  portable OS instances

Virtualization artifacts

paravirtualization presents an interface to virtual machines that is similar to the underlying hardware

Multiple isolated user OS, single Kernel

Multiple isolated user OS, single Kernel

Isolation approach

Exploits the "Chip Multi Threading"  for sharing

Extends OS kernel libraries for partitioning and sharing of OS

Injects OS intercept calls to redirect OS system calls

System failure/risks


Hardware & Kernel OS

Hardware & Kernel OS


Server packaged with virtualization

OS packaged with virtualization

App packaged with virtualization

Provisioning use case

Sharing compute

Sharing compute

Sharing application

Mobility use case



Machine, hypervisor, zones, datacenter, cloud



Upward modernization Solaris Zones 8 to Solaris Zones 10 without recompiling the app

Upward modernization Solaris 2.6 to Solaris 10 without recompiling the app *

Image size without a DB

30-50 GB

MB - 3 GB

MB - 3 GB




*Including apps that are deemed not compatible with Binary Compatibility Guarantee and are statically linked

Note: AppVirt: AppZero for Windows platform has a different interception level that Linux and Solaris

I am always looking for a way to communicate better and cut to the heart of the discussion. If you have thoughts on this subject drop me a line at GregO {@} Appzero {dot} com or tweet me at http://twitter.com/gregoryjoconnor.

More Stories By Greg O'Connor

Greg O'Connor is President & CEO of AppZero. Pioneering the Virtual Application Appliance approach to simplifying application-lifecycle management, he is responsible for translating Appzero's vision into strategic business objectives and financial results.

O'Connor has over 25 years of management and technical experience in the computer industry. He was founder and president of Sonic Software, acquired in 2005 by Progress Software (PRGS). There he grew the company from concept to over $40 million in revenue.

At Sonic, he evangelized and created the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) product category, which is generally accepted today as the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

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