Trend 2006: Hardware Assisted Virtualization Etc.

Our next major trend for IT in 2006, is the assist in chip hardware that will be afforded to server software. Chips are now using multi-core designs to boost performance. rather than creating one great big monster chip, chipmakers are making clones or cores of the basic chip design on the same die. So in a dual core design there are two CPUs packed onto one chip. Even with the move to 64bit designs multi-core is possible.

AMD is leading the way with dualcore Opterons and Intel is trying to follow suit; but has been delayed into 2006 on some of its key dualcore technologies. Meanwhile AMD has upped the ante and has started to commit to virtualization technolgies – again putting on chip code which otherwise bottlenecks virtual machine and partitioning performance.

Why Are Virtual Machines and Partitioning Important

Virtual machines are important because even within a vendors operating systems – there can be dependencies on older or newer versions of the OS that are in some way mutually incompatible. For example, I cannot run some older Adobe plugins on Windows XP Pro SP2; but that is the only desktop operating system that will run SQL Server 2005. With software virtualization, VMWare, I can run both versions of Wndows and then just boot up appropriately. With multicore plus virtualization software I will be able to initiate two or more partitions and then swtch between them. The partitions will divide CPUs but share memory and disk space on demand. If one process or partition hangs I can reboot without effecting the other. Nice.

Now if I can do this on the desktop imagine what can be done on a server OS. And that is what IBM, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Sun are racing to do with their top-of the line Server operating systems. Each wants to create real On-Demand computing with virtual machines and partitions for better security and reliability as well as the ability to deliver more (or less) computing on-demand .

Yes, for IBM veterans of OS/VM and MVS partitions it is Back to the Future unless you are running zOS already. But the key difference will be hardware assisted virtualization and partitioning. Horrors for RISC-Reduced Instruction Set Chip designers. Back to the bad old days of long or even macro intructions. But RISC works best when you increase chip speed with faster cycle time. But heat dissipation and other fundamental design problems have slowed down the charge up that hill – so the multicore alternative, same CPU repeated on a die, demands new hardware designs to make all those CPUs work best with one another. Hence the rise of hardware assisted VMs and partitions.

Expect to see AMD and Intel vying to rollout their respective technologies throughout 2006 and 2007. I would be a fool to hazard a guess as to who has the best technology; but right now AMD has a small early lead and a very ambitious schedule. Intel meanwhile is playing some of its cards very close to the vest. OS vendors are champing at the bit – from Sun to IBM. For example, Microsoft will only release a 64bit version of Exchange Server 2006 and the recommended requirement may be a dualcore machine. There are real attractions to running security sensitive processes like Exchange or IIS in their own partitions. Ditto for Websphere or Java Enterprise Server. Read the writing on the Wall.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005