What will happen to virtualization?

Following on from my previous entry and these two items:-

This has really made me think as to where virtualization will lead us. It either has to become the OS, and VMware already state that ESX server has millions of lines of code (not dissimilar to many OSes) so at some point the virtualization product becomes the OS and the OS becomes a function library. Or maybe not!

Intel, AMD and other hardware vendors are adding virtualization support like crazy to their hardware so maybe the next step is the virtualization layer to really move into the hardware and BIOS. With multi-core processors coming thick and fast (Intel forsee 80 cores in a few years) the ability to carve up your box into multiple virtual boxes becomes much more relevant. And with all the virtualization handled in the hardware we will have much less overhead on the next layer from virtualization. Really this is just the next step on from the blade arhitecture we have now, instead of slots in a rack we could end up with scokets on a motherboard. Add a few more cores and viola you have added a huge amount of capacity to the system. As with everything at some point the hardware moves down to the chip level, AMD will start the ball rolling as they add GPUs into their chips following their ATI purchase.

This is why VMware needs to move into the system management space as that is where the real value is, operating systems are becoming commodity items, virtualization will just be another trick for the hardware vendors, so the real value is in managing this whole infrastructure and making sure that the workloads that needs the resource and QoS get it.


What is an OS?

Gee nearly 2 months since my last post (note to self: post more!)

This article by Diane Green of VMware made me think again about how you actually define what constitutes an operating system. (This also goes back to a question I asked Mendel Rosenblum at TSX in Orlando).

Looking at Wikipedia an operating system is defined thus “An operating system (OS) is a computer program that manages the hardware and software resources of a computer. At the foundation of all system software, the OS performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating networking, and managing files. It also may provide a graphical user interface for higher level functions.”. Well when you bring ESX server into the equation that pretty much defines the fucntions of ESX server so no matter what marketing wants us to believe all we do with virtualization is introduce a different operating system. Now, don’t get me wrong in the right circumstances virtualization is a fantastic tool, but we have to make sure it is the right circumstances. You can’t get away from the fact that somewhere you are going to have an OS that hides the hardware issues from the application be that ESX server, Linux, or Windows.

All that is happening is that ESX server is going to have to pick up the problems of presenting a common interface to the machine hardware, so if appliances take off in a big way VMware have to pick up the problem of supporting all those hardware variants. In this case the underlying ‘operating system’ used by the appliance vendor just becomes a big function library for the vendor to use in creating their appliance.

So when you hear that the operating system doesn’t matter anymore, it depends on which operating system you are talking about.