Virtually Speaking: The Not-So-Humble Hypervisor

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Oct 13, 2006


Amy Newman
As virtualization technologies mature, will the hypervisor be the final differentiator?

Any IT professional worth his or her salt knows that Orlando is the place to be in October. Not for the kitsch of Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, but for Gartner's annual IT Symposium.

This week, scads of attendees and media descended on Lake Buena Vista to hear Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Cisco President and CEO John Chambers, and Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini speak; mingle with with myriad Gartner analysts; and meet with vendors.

Not surprisingly, virtualization, was a recurring topic. One internetnews.com reporter attending the conference described the virtualization coverage simply as "huge."

In the Wednesday keynote, for example, Cisco President and CEO John Chambers said virtualization will drive the next wave of networking, as it will "enable better collaboration, which will boost corporate productivity, adding that collaboration will be enabled through technologies such as IP videoconferencing, or telepresence."

In another session, Gartner analyst Jay Pultz described server virtualization as being "well on its way toward maturity, I&O Leaders can expect virtualization to extend to most I&O subsystems during the next seven years," according to one blog entry.

The pervasiveness of virtualization will not be limited to servers. Gartner analyst Brian Gammage noted in a statement, "Virtualization support is now being embedded into PCs. By the end of 2007, most of the PCs sold will come with this capability. The launch of hardware virtualization support marked the start of a period that will inevitably lead to the establishment of a critical new PC standard: the hypervisor."

Gartner analyst George Weiss took the importance of the hypervisors a step further, noting, that in the future, the humble hypervisor will be where Windows and Linux will distinguish themselves. Hypervisors, Weiss, said offer many opportunities for businesses to consolidate servers and cut costs.

The hypervisor provides the underpinnings for virtualization management, which includes policy-based automation, virtual hard disk, life cycle management, live migration and real-time resource allocation,

Such functionality is currently found in the Xen Hypervisor, which is used in the latest version of Virtual Iron's platform, released earlier this week.

Naturally, Microsoft won't be sitting on the sidelines. It plans to offer a hypervisor shortly after its Longhorn server software arrives in 2007 or 2008.

Will CIOs care which hypervisor they are running? Probably not, as long as it integrates with the virtualization management software they need to stay up and running. But, then again, it wasn't long ago that no one paid attention to which processor was powering the servers.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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