Virtualization Platform vs Operating System

This concerns a real ideological divide between VMware (and others) and Microsoft.

This is an old Microsoft post where they were writing back at VMworld in 2009.

http://blogs.technet.com/virtualization/archive/2009/09/01/the-virtualization-platform-vs-the-operating-system.aspx

It concerns what I feel is a real ideological divide between VMware (and others) and Microsoft. Microsoft firmly believes the hypervisor or virtualization layer should reside as a function of the operating system. Whereas VMware, and others, think the hypervisor should be an independent ancillary micro-kernel with the sole task (amongst some others) of running virtual machines. The guest operating system should be where high-level stuff should run.

The VMware view of the world has led to what some would call “half-baked announcements” such as the “death of the operating system”. Personally, I think such announcements are there to make headlines rather than inroads into our thinking. I guess VMware’s grand vision is a download-able world where VMs are just pulled down from the web as stand-alone Virtual Appliances or as multi-tier vApps. The trouble is that remains largely a vision rather than a reality. The reality is most folks are running Windows inside a VMware virtual machine. I’ve often thought that despite VMW and MSFT being at regular loggerheads on the blogger-sphere, they actually complement each other more than either party would care to admit. VMware makes it very easy to run multiple copies of Windows on a single physical host and Microsoft makes lots of money on the guest operating system licenses via VM sprawl. I guess the real message behind VMware’s grand vision is that the role of GOS is much reduced if you accept their view of the world.  That leads us down the road of JEOS (Just-Enough-Operating-System). However, for such a view to take hold, customers are going to have to want something like Linux in a VM, rather than Windows. That’s a big ask I think.

Personally, I don’t think the OS should have a virtualization layer for folks who don’t need a fully-blown hypervisor. It seems that MSFT have wanted to have it both ways. They stake a claim that HyperV is as good as ESX/Xen, saying it’s a fully-fledged hypervisor, but then in the same breath they say the virtualization layer should be part of the OS. I don’t see how you can make the claim both ways without sounding like you’re contradicting yourself. I don’t think MSFT is helped when an issue confusing FUD suggests there are more layers in the VMware model than there is. That’s just fancy slicing on their part, which I don’t think anyone who is serious about virtualization buys it one little bit.

This was first published in December 2009

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