Sun Microsystems will release its overhauled data centre management application for Linux and Solaris environments next month, the beginning of what it says will be a new platform for running open source technologies.

The commercial version of Sun xVM Ops Centre 1.0, which automates routines such as system provisioning, firmware updating and patch management, will go on the market Jan. 8, the company said Tuesday.

As with many of Sun’s more recent applications, it will be an open source product whose source code will be made available to developers later next year.

While the January release will be a free download, it will only be sold with subscriptions that include support and network delivered services. These will start at US$100 per managed service and run up to US$350, depending on features.

A US$10,000 Satellite Server subscription will include an on-site installation service and training.

However, a many IT managers may hold off until the second quarter when Sun releases xVM Server 1.0, an enterprise-grade bare-metal hypervisor for Windows, Solaris and Linux environments which is designed to be run under Ops Centre.

At the same time as the hypervisor is released, Ops Centre 2.0 — which will have more features — will be made available, said Oren Teich, director of xVM product marketing said in an interview.

“We expect most customers to be buying (xVM Server) as a bundled product, not independently,” he said. Ops Centre, targeted at companies with more than 100 nodes, “is the integration of virtualization and management,” he said. “You can’t have one without the other.”

Billed as a new product, Ops Centre is actually based on a merger of Sun N1 Systems Manager, a provisioning tool, and Sun Connection Satellite, a patch management tool. As a result it needs to install only one agent per node instead of two. Teich said there have also been significant improvements to the interface to increase usability. “We’re really targeting people who are not the traditional Sun customer,” he said.

Ops Centre can support up to 5,000 nodes, a large increase over its predecessors. Improved scalability was “the single most requested feature from our customers,” Teich said. It also integrates easily into systems, he said.

“The problem with most management products is they require network administrators to punch holes into the firewall and set up custom rules. They’re very disruptive. Ops Centre is designed to be “low-impact” he said. Communications between agents is done through XML over HTTP through outbound connections.

Ops Centre runs on Solaris 10 for SPARC systems or any x86 server with a dual core AMD Operteron or Intel Xeon CPU with at least 4MB of memory. While it includes a management and proxy servers, the application can run on one box in smaller environments, Teich said.

So far Ops Centre won’t manage Windows systems. Teich noted Sun has reciprocal deals with Microsoft that include managing technology, but the specifics are still being worked out. “We are very interested in adding Windows management as part of our roadmap,” he said, but couldn’t say when it will happen. “It’s a tricky exercise in engineering,” he added.

Competing products include BladeLogic, Red Hat Network and Hewlett-Packard’s OpsWare. But Teich said the biggest contender Sun faces is what he calls apathy – companies with no data management application at all.

“It’s amazing how many people do it themselves without any supporting tools,” he said. “Somehow people manage to do without it, but I think they’re idiots.”

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