It Is Becoming a Virtual World

Now we're seeing a huge shake-up in the virtualization space.

Microsoft became a virtual company with its recent acquisition of Connectix. Its only a matter of time before Microsoft positions Windows as the core operating system capable of virtualizing and managing Linux server distributions.

The thought is not crazy. IBM pseudo-virtualized Windows 3.0 with OS/2 in 1990. With that failure, the virtual world settled down. Companies such as VMware and Connectix enabled desktop users to run instances of operating systems and applications in a virtual environment. It was bliss for those developing or requiring applications of one platform while using another.

Desktop virtualization, however, is only one application, and as such, its merely an evolution of the multiboot capabilities that are now rolled into every operating system. The second kind of virtualization happens at the server level, in which Unix system resources are virtualized, giving servers mainframelike resource provisioning capabilities.

Now were seeing a huge shake-up in the virtualization space. The focus on virtualization is shifting from the desktop space to the server side. Meanwhile, Unix virtualization capabilities are being folded into blade computers that also run x86 processors. Server virtualization technology is one of the underpinnings of what has become known as utility computing.

On the desktop side, we have to wonder what Microsoft will do with Connectix, a company better known for making it possible to run Windows applications on the Macintosh. It appears Microsoft will roll the Connectix virtualization technology deep inside the Windows stack. That technology will allow Windows computers to run multiple operating systems on the same system, giving Microsoft yet another way to charge for Windows servers: Run Linux under Windows—chalk up another Windows sale.

Until the acquisition, VMware was the hotter company in virtualization, and most people thought Microsoft would buy VMware. Unfortunately, VMware frequently demonstrated its technology by crashing Windows with a "blue screen" application, proving that VMwares technology could do Windows better than Windows, a la IBM. Oops.

Where will this lead us? It appears the advantages in any operating system will be blurred through the evolution of virtualization technologies.

Whats better—virtualization or application emulation? Write to me at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.