Apple Launches Virtualization?

A lot is being made of Boot Camp – that is the free boot loader on the new Intel-based Apple computers that will allow MacBook and other Intel Apple machines to boot up into either MacOS or Windows XP (but not the Media Center edition nor the new upcoming Vista, for now). But this requires that users partition their Intel Apple machines – reserving some portion of their disk storage for the exclusive use of the Windows files system (FAT or NTFS). If users make the XP partition NTFS (the Windows default), MacOSX will currently allow users to read but not write files in the Windows partition. Windows XP is able to take advantage of most of the Apple Intel hardware with the exception of the Apple Remote Control (IR), Apple Wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard or mouse, Apple USB Modem, MacBook Pros sudden motion sensor, MacBook Pros ambient light sensor, and built-in iSight camera will not function correctly when running Windows. This is roughly the state of the art of Boot Camp but Apple has stated that this is beta and the final product and features will be introduced with Apple leopard OS due out later this year.

And if you do a Google: Apple “Boot Camp” – you will find an enormous amount of ink devoted to the topic, approximately 25 million articles. And I can testify that the first 444 are all about BootCamp. Clearly BootCamp has caught the desktop computer worlds attention. And there has been much discussion including Lance Ulanoff at PC Magazine who has an interesting take on BootCamp and the comparative performance of Apple versus Windows on the same architecture. But the most interesting article I found was by PCWorlds Harry McCracken who opined the following:
“As former PC Worlder Ed Bott points out, dual-booting is not without its issues. Virtualization technology would let you run Windows apps in a window within OS X…potentially a much cooler and more productive way to mix and match Windows and Mac. An Intel version of Virtual PC that let you do that, and which included the necessary copy of Windows XP (or, in time, Windows Vista) wouldnt be irrelevant at all. “
We agree decisively with Harry and think that this will be the broader implications of BootCamp. It will serve to arouse interest in virtualization technology precisely at the time when technically Virtual Technology is ready to take off both on client workstations and upscale servers.

Virtual technology is at a tipping point. All the major chip vendors: AMD, Intel, and even Sun are in the process of hardware enabling virtualization processing. These hardware assisted virtualizations will substantially increase reliability and performance of DVM-Dynamic Virtual Machines. In th I86 world, AMD is again in the lead and should be producing Athlon and Opteron chips that have hardware-asisted VM capabilities this Fall. And all the major Virtualization software vendors: Microsoft with Virtual PC/Virtual Server, VMWare Workstation and ESXServer , and Open Source XEN are gearing up to take advantage of the technology. But some pundits have raised the question if you build virtual machines (and at what price), will they come ? I think the enormous interest in BootCamp on the desktop side says “yes, indeed”. And as for the server side, developers and operational shops are drooling and slavering at the mouth to get hardware-energized virtualization in house. Some IT shops are saying that with a 5-10% productivity boost in development, testing, and/or operational control VM-enabled systems are an ROI no-brainer. So Steve Jobs and Apple may get credit for the spread of virtualization, even though they dropped their Apple only close to the new tone that is hardware-assisted virtualization on PCs and servers.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006

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