Analyst group Gartner believes that virtualization will
allow Microsoft to create a more flexible operating system platform in the future based around modularity.
The claim, which has been rejected by Microsoft, stems from
the argument that the current Windows architecture is unsustainable for
Microsoft and its customers.
In a research note released this week, Vista Will Be the Last
Major Windows Release as We Know It, the analyst group claims that the trend of
building ever more functionality into Windows may be reversed thanks to the
virtualization technology which will soon be integrated into the operating
Microsoft customers need the way Windows is developed and
released to change, as deploying the gargantuan operating system is too costly
and complex at present. In turn, the vendor needs to accelerate the rate at
which it releases and updates Windows to satisfy users who have signed up to its
bulk-buy automated upgrade Software Assurance (SA) programme.
The software giant has made some attempts to slim down the
OS by rebuilding Windows into a stack of more than 50 discrete layers, says
Gartner. This strategy has gone some way to rationalizing the complexity of the
operating system but it's not enough, the analyst group warns.
The key technology which will allow for smaller, discrete
and more frequent versions of Windows is virtualization, which effectively
separates the operating system from the underlying hardware. "Once Windows
includes virtualization at its core, we expect OS deployment to change direction
from integration to modularization. Microsoft will then use modularity to change
the packaging and delivery model for future versions of Windows," the report
However Microsoft is being cagey about whether the strategy
laid out by Gartner is the way it plans to go. According to the analyst report:
"Microsoft disagrees with this vision of its client operating system. It claims
its research has identified significant issues with using hardware
virtualization as a means of modularity due to the challenges associated with
integrating data across partitions and creating a consistent user
Virtualization generally refers to the ability to run
multiple operating systems simultaneously to make a computer more efficient.
Intel and AMD have added virtualization hardware support to their latest chips,
while market leader VMware is exerting price pressure on Microsoft and the Xen
project is giving Linux a major lead over Windows.
Microsoft is working on adding improved virtualization
technology, known as hypervisor, to its server software but hasn't released any
real information regarding the impact on the client. According to Bob Muglia,
senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, virtualization
will not come with Vista Server, but as an add-on that will ship within six months of the server release.