A Sun Microsystems spokesperson told us that it will partner with a third party to release a commercial version of its xVM VirtualBox virtualization software in the US during the first quarter of next year. At the same time, the company today released the open source xVM VirtualBox 2.1, which includes performance enhancements that make it faster than Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion, according to the spokesperson. xVM VirtualBox is currently a free download for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and other host platforms.
The commercial version, called xVM VirtualBox Premium Edition will sell for approximately US $50, and is already available in the United Kingdom (£30). The US release of Premium Edition will include a DVD containing a pre-configured virtual machine loaded with OpenSolaris and Star Office. VirtualBox Premium Edition will be able to read Parallels Desktop virtual machine images, a feature not in the free version, which Sun will continue to offer.
Today's release of the xVM VirtualBox 2.1 update focuses on performance enhancements. It now makes use of the Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x) in the processor for better hardware acceleration on Mac OS X hosts.
Version 2.1 also supports the OpenGL standards for accelerated 3D Graphics, used by software such as Google Earth, many games, and CAD/CAM programs. Currently, Parallels Desktop 4 also supports OpenGL, while VMware Fusion does not. Sun also said that the update increases network performance for multimedia applications, including video and audio.
The new version now supports virtualization formats from VMware (VMDK) format and Microsoft (VHD), enabling VirtualBox to run virtual machines created with those platforms.
xVM VirtualBox 2.1 (and the source code) is free, but Sun also offers technical support for US $30 per user per year, with discounts for volume.
Sun also said today that it has supported 8 million downloads of VirtualBox to date, with about 800,000 of the Mac OS X version. A spokesperson said that about half the downloads were of the Windows version, and about a third for Linux. xVM VirtualBox runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris and OpenSolaris.
For more on xVM VirtualBox, see our VirtualBox Tips and Reports page.