VMworld 2007

VMworld 2007 was held in the Moscone center in San Francisco on September 11-13. You can access all the keynote sessions here. Attendance was in the 10,000 range this year, as opposed to 1500 a couple of years ago. Virtualization is becoming “mainstream”.

Diane Greene’s keynote

Diane Greene, VMware’s co-founder and CEO, gave the initial keynote. On a personal note, I had not seen her for about 5 or 6 years, and it was a kind of painful reminder of how much time flew since the beginnings of HP Integrity VM

The big deal, in my opinion, was the announcement of VMware ESX 3i. This is basically “VMware in your pocket”, at least as far as demos are concerned. That is not something that you care about much in the data center, what you care about is facilitating deployment, and the demo pretty conclusively showed the benefits. Essentially, you unpack the server, and in a few minutes, it’s ready to run virtual machines.

VMware is certainly not the first one to use a standalone Hypervisor. The IBM Power 5 hypervisor has essentially been architected like that for a while. Just like for IBM, ESX 3i is intended to become a part of the firmware of the machines. Once you say that, it becomes obvious why VMware is interested in doing that: it’s all about control. With all the talk about Microsoft Viridian, i.e. Microsoft building an hypervisor directly into the operating system, VMware was at risk to lose control. So building the hypervisor directly into the hardware is a very smart move.

On the other hand, the explanation of the difference between an OS and an hypervisor was a bit belabored. When VMware states that “the RedHat console OS takes 2G of footprint”, it is, I guess, not memory (not on x86, at least). So that’s probably disk. But making the hypervisor a separate component is a bit like making the Linux kernel a separate component. As the GNU folks are fond of pointing out, a kernel by itself does not do much. And a Linux kernel on x86 is also in the order of a few megabytes, not a few gigabytes.

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