Sun has announced six new virtualisation services that amount to its first coherent strategy in the area, according to one analyst.

The company is offering SunFire T1000 and T2000 servers that can run multiple operating systems simultaneously and integrate XenSource open-source virtualisation software into Sun's Solaris 10 OS. Sun is also upgrading its Galaxy line of x64-class servers with the latest AMD processors and offering free two-day customer workshops on virtualisation.

It has also set up longer-term education and support for virtualisation and will extend VMWare software support to the SunFire x4600 and Sun Blade servers.

"What we are saying is that we have a complete portfolio of choices for virtualisation, not just one product or service," said Pradeep Parmar, business manager for Sun's Network Systems Group. "We believe that offering this portfolio positions us very well."

Many companies are still trying to understand what virtualisation is and how to implement it - and the latest Sun announcements address those issues, according to Forrester analyst John Rymer. "It’s the first time Sun has put together a virtualisation strategy," he said. "Sun has been approaching this piecemeal and now they will coordinate various developments so different strategies would work together."

One of the virtues of virtualisation is making better use of a company's server base by running multiple programs and operating systems on one piece of hardware. Previously, one server would be dedicated to running just one program, often using only 15 percent to 20 percent of its capacity. Through virtualisation, a company can add workload without spending more on servers.

But even as companies like Sun pursue their virtualisation strategies, the market is still in its early stages of development, said Rymer. Sun and competitors like HP, IBM and Dell along with software companies like VMWare, are largely focused on virtualisation in the server environment. Although some have individual virtualisation products for application software or storage, the industry has yet to comprehensively address virtualisation of the storage, middleware, applications software or networking.

A lot of enterprise customers "think virtualisation equals VMWare," says Rymer, but there are many more components to it. Although virtualisation will help better manage IT infrastructure, there is still some confusion in the marketplace about what it all means.