Friday, April 07, 2006

Virtualization is the New Web Browser

I read the first post by the president of VMware, Diane Greene. She discusses a subject that has been gnawing at my brain since I heard that Microsoft began offering Virtual Server as a free download. Ms. Greene makes two points. First, she promotes VMware's Virtual Machine Disk Format (VMDK) as an open alternative to Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk Image Format Specification (VHD). I would obviously like to see an open standard prevail against a closed one.

Second, she argues discusses "the question of whether virtualization should be tightly integrated into the operating system or instead a separate wholly independent layer." As you might guess she wants separation: "Tight integration comes at the unfortunate cost of giving up bias-free choice of operating system and thus software stack (i.e. OS and application program)."

This is the Web browser-in-the-OS argument all over again. Microsoft said last year that "Microsoft will build virtualization capabilities into the Windows platform based on Windows hypervisor technology, planned for availability in the next product wave of the Windows operating system, code-named Windows 'Longhorn.' This integrated hypervisor technology in the Windows operating system will be designed to provide customers with a high-performance virtualization solution for Windows and heterogeneous environments."

Everyone's doing it. Check out Red Hat's initiatives, which include integrating Xen into Fedora Core 5. FreeBSD is also bringing Xen into its source tree, probably for FreeBSD 7.0 but maybe 6.2.

You might also consider virtualization to be like a TCP/IP stack. I remember installing Trumpet Winsock on Windows 3.1 so I could dial-in to the Internet in the early 1990s. Now every OS ships with a TCP/IP stack.

With word that Microsoft Virtual Server 2007 is delayed until 2007, like Vista and Office 2007, the only question is Microsoft's ability to execute. I consider VMware to be the leader in the virtualization space. Will there come a day, however, when I'll just use the built-in virtualization technology on Windows instead of adding a third-party product? Maybe. Then again, I'm posting these ideas in Firefox -- not IE.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it all eventually comes down to economics. How long can an open source product be viable without "selling out" or going commercial? Once you go commercial, and especially if you go public, the rules change, the products change, the focus changes, and most importantly, grassroots perception changes.

Browser integration wars, OS wars, virtualization wars, Yahoo and then Google and whatever the next best one will many things are cool when still not profitable, but yet become these evil entities once they became products of the profit machine.

Nevertheless, I'll likely end up using both Virtual Server from Microsoft to keep up on technology on the professional side, but use VMWare in my personal endeavors.


Anonymous said...

VHD file format is open to anyone.