Oracle has announced the general availability of version 4.0 of the Oracle VM VirtualBox free open source virtualization platform. The announcement comes only three weeks after the company debuted the 3.2.12 maintenance release, and it marks the first major release of the virtualization offering under the Oracle brand.

According to the company, Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.0 offers support for the latest in virtual hardware, increases capacity and throughput to handle greater workloads, improves usability and performance, and comes with new packaging.

VirtualBox is Oracle’s hosted virtualization platform, also known as a Type-2 hypervisor, which means the hypervisor is installed on top of an operating system, not on top of bare-metal equipment. VirtualBox offers support for a variety of host OSes, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, many popular flavors of Linux (including Oracle Linux), and Oracle Solaris platforms. It’s even more impressive with its list of supported guest operating systems.

While still relatively new to the Oracle virtualization arsenal, VirtualBox has been a widely popular hypervisor for a few years now, as evidenced by its more than 26 million downloads. Since coming onto the scene back in 2007, VirtualBox has been challenging more established virtualization players like Parallels and VMware on the consumer side of the desktop virtualization market.

The product was initially developed by the German software vendor innotek, which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in February 2008. Sun added VirtualBox into its virtualization portfolio and eventually rebranded the product as Sun xVM VirtualBox. In April 2009, Sun was acquired by Oracle and the product was rebranded again as Oracle VM VirtualBox. Thankfully, this release from Oracle maintains both its open source status and its free price tag.

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