Why VMware Is A Bigger Threat To Microsoft Than Google Is

Monday, August 20, 2007

What’s so great about hypervisors?  Seldom has a piece of software gained the aura that VMware‘s ESX Server or the open source Xen, both hypervisors, carry with them at the moment.  It doesn’t hurt that VMware just staged a successful IPO Tuesday, raising $957 million on Wall Street.  On the following day, Citrix said it would pay $500 million to acquire XenSource, the little company behind Xen, the other major hypervisor on the market.  If nothing else, we know hypervisors are hot…..Hypervisors are different.  They are smart enough to translate application logic into machine code that the x86 instruction set inside a chip can execute.  But they are not operating system replacements.  They are merely operating system neutral and don’t care which operating systems sit above them.  In that sense, their importance lies in the fact that they break a stranglehold that Microsoft and other big system vendors have had on the exclusive tie between the application and the chip…..Consider what Rosenblum said before his remark on operating system vulnerability.  His main point was hypervisors displace — not replace — operating systems as the software that talks to the hardware.

Operating systems have held the “privileged” position of passing instructions to the hardware since the advent of general purpose computing.  Think Sun Microsystems’ Sparc chips and you automatically think of Solaris.  Think Intel x86 instruction set chips and you often think of Windows, their dominant operating system.  Hypervisors offer an opportunity to break this exclusive link, Rosenblum said.  By talking directly to the hardware, the hypervisor interposes itself between the operating system and the hardware, “lifting” the operating system up a notch and opening the door to new ways of handling operating system tasks, such as memory management.  Putting on his hat as a Stanford University professor of computer science, he said operating system replacement is possible under such circumstances…..Hypervisors open the door to new ways of handling processing tasks for an application, reducing the exclusive role of the operating system.  Hypervisors might even allow replacing the operating system someday through a new intermediary, like the Java Virtual machine.  But such changes are many years away, and operating systems as of today remain a key component inside the virtual machine itself…..”Virtualization’s impact,” he concluded, “is to change the role of the operating system.”  Instead of being a choke point “susceptible to monopoly,” an operating system is likely to move away from its bloated, general purpose role to become a slenderized, customized system to run a specific application.  The combination of an operating system and application geared to each other is what’s at the heart of a virtual machine, and VMs run most efficiently by communicating their needs through a hypervisor.  Operating systems are still part of the picture but their “privileged position” is reduced by the instruction-passing role of the hypervisor next to the hardware…..Microsoft’s Larry Orecklin, general manager of Systems Center Group and virtualization, said: “Virtualization is a key feature of the operating system.  That’s where resource management has traditionally been done and that’s the place to build an overall solution.”  When Microsoft brings out its hypervisor, Viridian, within 180 days of the launch of Windows Longhorn Server, “Viridian will be a feature of the operating system,” he said.  Nevertheless, some virtualization observers say not everyone is going to see the hypervisor as subsystem of the operating system.  Thomas Bittman, Gartner analyst agrees with Rosenblum.  “VMware and hypervisor virtualization are a bigger threat to Microsoft than Google is,” he said.

Reference : http://www.intelligententerprise.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=201800869

4 Responses to “Why VMware Is A Bigger Threat To Microsoft Than Google Is”

  1. OS Says:

    This article is vague and does not explain the threat of VM to MS. I can choose to run Unix or Windows on a physical machine, now I can choose to run Unix or Windows on a virtual machine. Where is the threat to MS?

  2. MMM Says:

    Excellent point. The impact on MS here is that they will be “pushed further away” from the cordon closest to the hardware (the kernel). They will then have to compete based on features other than the control of drivers and the supported hardware environment. So in effect, the impact is that Windows will become “open sourced” in an indirect way, meaning that the core kernel will be made generic. This is something that MS has resisted so far, in order to preserve their privileges and monopoly control.

    Overall, virtualization will likely have a MASSIVE impact – perhaps redefining what should comprise the OS itself. Even this may not, to your point, show up in MS’s top line in the short term. It will, however, definitely make the OS playing field a lot flatter in the longer term, severely reducing the advantage of entrenched incumbents. It is inevitable that such competition i.e. the unleashing of “open market forces” will lead to better OSes or lower prices or both.

  3. vkinfotek Says:

    Thank you for the article mmm.

    Will MS become open source ?? Considering the competition.

    k r i s
    http://www.vkinfotek.com

  4. MMM Says:

    I doubt they will ever willingly open source all of Windows but they will find the core functions of what is currently considered an OS, increasingly commoditized and made generic.

    In my opinion, what we are witnessing with virtualisation, SaaS, and other similar “abstraction phenomena” is a decrease in the size of bubble labelled OS and it’s dropping away into “quadrant 3” – the one low on “Flexibility”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: