VMs-within-VMs-within-VMs raise new virtualization promises and concerns.
It's just about Thanksgiving, but I feel like I already have a refrigerator
full of turducken leftovers in the form of client VMs scattered across my lab
For those not familiar with the term, a turducken is a partial deboned
turkey that is stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned
chicken. It's the concept I use to keep clear about what virtual machine is
running where in the flurry of desktop virtualization reviews I've written
during the past year.
Running a fat client stuffed with fat clients that are themselves stuffed
with fat clients came to a head with my review of VMware Workstation 7. When I
found myself using the names of Greek and Norse gods for physical computers-words
that started with the letter "v" to name virtual machines and
"s" to denote the virtual machines running inside those virtual
machines-it was time to take a sanity break.
All this VM stuffing is of great benefit when used by developers and
trainers. Setting up whole test environments in the confines of one physical
system provides a tremendous productivity boost to high-value IT employees.
Also compelling is the ability to provide IT workers with training on
bleeding-edge virtualized infrastructure without the associated costs of
Further, client hardware has gained enough compute power to support
turducken-style VM implementations. With the advent of relatively inexpensive
multicore client systems with relatively large amounts of inexpensive RAM,
it's almost a waste of silicon not to run multiple VMs on a single physical
Even Fruitarians (Apple users) are getting in on the game. My recent reviews
showed that the heavyweight of fat clients (the Mac platform's
mandatory hardware/OS combo) is gaining the ability to stuff the most widely
used business OS (Windows) into an elegant, apple-shaped VM. VMware and
Parallels are in a race to see which virtualization tool can make the Windows
OS appear the most Apple-like-"just another application" running on
the Mac platform.
I wonder to what extent all this VM-within-VM stuffing is both indicative of
the advances made in virtualization and a precursor to moving the utility
provided by these physical machines to the cloud. The mastery gained from
encapsulating this much compute power on a local system also serves as a basis
for putting the VMs on an always-accessible platform, regardless of the
physical location of the IT pro who needs to use the resources.
For today, however, I have some practical concerns about the use of
VM-within-VM architectures. Until now, power users have been entrusted with
administrative privileges because they weren't naive end users. I've seen in my
own test environments how much administrative time I've had to devote to
ensuring that my sprawling virtual kingdom is patched, secured and generally
maintained so as not to pose a threat to myself or others.
Even my Apple systems, most now running Windows clients, come within the
scope of my anti-malware regimen. I've spent a lot of time managing all these
clients-within-clients-within-clients-enough that I now count this time against
the productivity gains provided by virtualization tools.
Today, it's cool to run an entire VMware infrastructure on a laptop. Tomorrow,
you might be wondering why you made all that turducken.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at