Several stories in the news include a mention of something Kevin Kettler, Dell CTO, said during his keynote address at LinuxWorld in San Francisco. Dell is exploring the concept of embedding a lightweight hypervisor in the firmware of some future Dell servers. Although this may or may not actually become part of Dell's product line, it is interesting to speculate about the impact of such a move.
What is a hypervisor?
Before I start gazing into my cracked, rather distorted crystal ball, I'd like to spend a moment on hypervisors. Just what is a hypervisor anyway? How do I feed it and does it eat much?
A hypervisor is a relatively small control program that can manage low-level system functions and allow multiple containers or virtual machines to run simultaneously on the same physical system. These virtual machines can contain an entire virtual system made up of an operating system and all of the software necessary to support an application (network management, storage management, data management, application framework and the application itself).
The Wikipedia offers the following, rather minimalist, definition: "A hypervisor is software which runs on a hardware machine and manages one or more operating systems."
What does this mean to me?
Embedding a hypervisor into a system could offer a number of benefits including:
- Reducing software installation to a simple file copy
- Reducing software updates to a simple file copy
- Windows, Linux, BSD Unix and just about anything else could run simultaneously and at the same time
- Obsolete devices could appear to be present even though they've not be manufactured or supported for years
- New technology, such as hardware supporting advanced graphics, high-speed networking and storage, could be included in the system and appear to software as well-known, much loved, older devices that are compatible with generations of software.
Who is planning to be at the party?
There are several hypervisors available on the market today including those offered by VMware and XenSource. There is much speculation that Microsoft will join this list shortly with its next generation of software.
What benefits can you see coming out of a hypervisor being a standard part of systems?