Whats Next? Virtual Chips

Tech Analysis: Chip makers to heat up virtualization space.

Next year, the world of virtualization technology will really heat up when chip makers Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. begin offering virtualization technologies built into their chips. Once available, hardware running these chips will support virtual machines more efficiently by allowing systems to be partitioned and enabled to run multiple operating systems.

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By building virtualization features into their silicon, both AMD and Intel are aiming to extend the use of virtualization technologies to x86-based servers, desktops and mobile computers.

Intels Virtualization Technology— formerly code-named Vanderpool—will begin appearing in desktop Pentium 4 chips and 64-bit Itanium server processors this year and in the Xeon DP and MP chips next year.

AMDs technology, code-named Pacifica, is expected to appear as a standard feature in chips by the second half of next year. Eventually, the technology will be used in both single-core and dual-core AMD64 processors.

eWEEK Labs sees great potential in the upcoming virtualization technologies from AMD and Intel. Enhancements to the chip sets will improve hardwares ability to support, create and operate VMs. IT managers currently using virtualization software from Microsoft Corp. and VMware Inc., as well as the open-source Xen virtualization software, should see performance improvements when they upgrade to hardware with virtualization features.

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Open-source fans have the most to gain when the chip makers introduce their technologies. Currently, Xen can be used with Linux, but it cannot be used with guest machines running Windows because Xen requires that the operating system cooperate with the hypervisor (the program that provides the VM environment).

Earlier this year, AMD announced it would port Xen virtualization software to its AMD64 technology. And AMDs Pacifica and Intels Virtualization Technology will take it a step further. Once the rivals technologies are available, IT managers using Xen will be able to manage Windows systems.

It remains to be seen whether Intels and AMDs efforts will be enough to compel IT managers to pull the plug on Microsofts Virtual Server 2005 or VMwares ESX Server. However, the added functionality will mean more choices for enterprises.

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