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Can Sun save its Engineering Heritage Using the Mac?

Sun’s Virtualbox virtualization suite now supports Mac OS X – But the former engineering workstation giant could revive its legacy using Mac Pros and a tailored virtualization product for UNIX CAD and Engineering.

Sun’s ability to put out a third high-quality virtualization option for Mac users with its latest release of Virtualbox 2.1 is going to really be interesting. If Sun can actually keep up with VMware and Parallels remains to be seen. My guess is the battered company will languish in the virtualization race unless it really commits resources to this effort and seeks to differentiate. Yet, the newest release not only supports Mac OS X systems with qualified hardware but supports experimental OpenGL 3D support. All of this has got me thinking…

Virtualization in Support of Highend UNIX CAD

It would be neat if there were three high-quality virtualization products for the Mac OS X platform. It would be even neater if Sun concentrated its Virtualbox virtualization software suite on reviving its engineering workstation legacy vis-a-vis the use of Apple’s Mac Pro workstations. Think of it as Sun building a virtualization environment centered around helping former Sun and SGI workstation customers build out a killer workstation platform on the Mac Pro lineup. Sun could work extra closely with Apple to leverage its new Grand Central and OpenCL technologies in the upcoming Snow Leopard operating system helping it out-perform its competition in OpenGL speed and multi-processing. 

A best-in-breed virtualization platform for CAD and engineering would seek to tailor the software to optimize OpenGL acceleration beyond what Parallels and VMware have done. It would also seek to leverage engineering CAD’s UNIX past by allowing the easiest installation and optimal setup of guest UNIX operating systems like Sun’s Solaris. Sun could sell Virtualbox in the future preconfigured for a guest Solaris install and highly configured for engineering and science on the Mac Pros. 

In contrast to the commentary published earlier today on an online petition effort to revive Sun’s Sparc workstation line, those seeking former UNIX CAD glory should possibly embrace the strategy outlined above. In doing so they could push Sun into a unique position wherein UNIX guest support for engineering, CAD and science becomes a major product differentiator in the virtualization market wars.