Until very recently, some graphics intensive applications were not good candidates for encapsulation in a virtual machine. Even though using virtual machine technology could offer the administrators and users a number of benefits, the performance would simply not past muster with the "power users" needing those applications.
This type of application typically needs a very close tie to the actual graphics hardware to obtain the control and performance required. Parallels has been working with its partners, HP, Intel and NVIDIA, on a solution. Each of these companies brought different things to the party.
What each vendor brought to the partyIntel provided the intelligent performance features in the new Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series and the Intel® X58 Express Chipset. The new processors include Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (Intel® VT-d) enabling Parallels to deliver outstanding performance by dedicating physical devices to virtualized environments.
NVIDIA provided NVIDIA SLI Multi-OS technology, this enables near-native performance of resource-intensive and graphics-intensive applications, as for the first time assignment of professional graphics cards can be made to a virtual machine. NIVIDIA is offering NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800, Quadro FX 4800, and Quadro FX 5800 based upon this new technology.
HP integrated the Intel and NIVIDIA technologies into its HP Z Series Workstations. These workstations are based on the new Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series and can be configured with graphics solutions such as the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800, Quadro FX 4800, and Quadro FX 5800.
Parallels developed a virtualization solution allowing a single workstation to effectively do the work of several workstations at once. Users can run multiple operating systems on the same physical box, addressing compatibility issues while maintaining workload isolation.
Snapshot analysisThis technology is clearly of interest to a small segment of the overall market for desktop systems. That being said, the people representing that segment are very important. Users support organizations in the areas of finance, government, science, engineering, manufacturing, and oil/gas.
To date, these people had a stack of computers on the floor behind their desk and a herd of monitors, keyboards and mice allowing them to do their work. Now it would be possible to have the herd of periphials attach to a single, powerful computer. Parallels virtualization technology would also make it possible to do some pretty interesting things that would be much harder to do on multiple independent systems.
This approach would most certinaly reduce complexity, power consumption, heat production and some administrative costs.
While not directed at the broad market, the technology is very interesting and is likely to have an impact in other markets over time.