Chip Makers Work to

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-02-16 Print this article Print

Encourage Adoption"> Proponents of the technology envision virtualization in everyday use as IT departments create partitions for their company corporate software packages, separating it from other applications, and establish partitions specifically for management software. Lenovo Group, of Purchase, N.Y., has already demonstrated a PC using virtualization to run a management partition that monitored a PCs health and helped it recover from a virus attack.
The company aims to begin shipping a similar application as part of its ThinkVantage suite of management and recovery tools for businesses next May, a company spokesperson said.
All this talk of applying virtualization to client PCs appears to have some businesses thinking about the concept, but few have begun testing it out yet. Oak Associates, an investment firm in Akron, Ohio, uses VMware to virtualize its Dell servers. However, Chief Technology Officer Scott Hill said putting virtualization to work on desktops is a concept thats farther down the road. "I can see the advantage of it, putting [Windows] XP on a virtual machine, and using a thin client or something for remote access," Hill said. "But on a one-to-one ratio, I dont think it hits the price-performance [ratio] yet. Ive considered it, but I havent gone that way yet." But by making sure their hardware supports virtualization in clients, AMD and Intel aim to encourage more software development and thus make virtualization more worthwhile for companies to investigate. On-chip virtualization technology helps reduce a lot of the complexity of virtualization software as well as speed its performance by offloading some of the work done in software called a hypervisor to their hardware, the chip makers say. Intel released its first Pentium 4 desktop chips with Virtualization Technology enabled last October and since then has added several more processors that include Intel Virtualization Technology, such as its dual-core Pentium D 900 family for desktops and Core processors for notebooks. Not all of the systems that contain those chips, particularly notebooks, have been advertised as such by their manufacturers, due to the dearth of software. Lenovo, which offered customers a pilot program with desktops based on the first Virtualization-equipped Pentium 4s, will buck that trend on Feb. 20, when it aims to take the wraps off of a new suite of ThinkCentre M52 desktops and tout the inclusion of Virtualization Technology, a company spokesperson said. Chip makers predict that, over time, more PC makers will join in and highlight virtualization in their machines. To that end, Intel said, it has been working with VMware, Microsoft and XenSource to ensure that their software supports the Intel Virtualization Technology on both PCs and servers. "Weve got lots of different usage models in mind that will help virtualization on the client become very mainstream over the next several years," Chad Taggard, director of advanced technologies marketing for Intel in Santa Clara, Calif., said during the companys desktop chip launch last October. "We think by 2007 or 2008 this will be a mainstream capability." AMDs Lewis also predicted that client-side virtualization will begin to sort itself out by 2007. Although "it wont go big-time until an operating system comes out with [a plan for] virtual worlds established," she said, referring to a promise by Microsoft, which has pledged to add virtualization capabilities, including a hypervisor, to Longhorn, now known as Windows Vista. Ultimately, Lewis said, she envisions PCs coming virtualized from the factory, meaning theyre pre-configured with numerous partitions that simply look like different windows. Users, she said, would toggle between them just as they switch between on-screen windows today. Editors Note: This story was updated to correct Raghu Raghurams title. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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