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Desktop virtualization can be of huge benefit on the desktop

In past blogs, I’ve discussed some of the big-picture benefits for server virtualization. This week, I wanted to give some thought to the concept of desktop virtualization. Of the two technologies, the desktop variety has been much slower to take off in the marketplace, and frankly, there are some good reasons for that.

In both cases, the fundamental underlying technology operates on the same basic principle: By uncoupling the operating system and application software layers from the binary code layer that actually operates the chip-level hardware, you can accomplish some cool things. Perhaps the number one benefit is being able to create the illusion of multiple independent physical machines (AKA “virtual” machines) all living side by side on a single hardware platform. These virtual machines can lead diverse and independent lives, being dedicated to various tasks and even running on different operating systems.

The benefits at the server level are almost self evident. For one thing, running multiple virtual machines on a single box can be more efficient, because you can eliminate underutilized machines. As a result, you can reduce hardware costs, eliminate redundancy, and slash you electric bill. Support and maintenance costs can also be reduced, as you consolidate your data center.

So what’s the value proposition for doing this at the desktop level? For me, at least, the picture is a little murkier. If you assume one user per desktop, which is the norm in most computing environments today, then the economies mentioned above for servers no longer apply. You can virtualize any number of desktop machines one a single machine, and give users access to those machines over the network, but you still have to put some kind of physical device on each user’s desk. These devices can be slimmed down, stripped of many of the features commonly included in a PC, but with hardware costs so low these days, you’d really have to sharpen your pencil to uncover significant and compelling savings in the hardware department.

To read more on virtualization, head on over to IBM’s Server Virtualization website.



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Software Testing
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 11:16:30 AM , Rating: 3
I use VM's a lot for software testing. They are perfect for that. For example, if I am developing a Windows app, I'll want to test it on various versions of Windows, e.g., XP, Vista, Windows 7.

I maintain VM images for each of these OSs, so when I want to do some testing, I just make a copy of the master OS image, start the VM, do my testing, and then when I'm all done, I delete the VM (keeping only the master).

That way, each test has a "fresh" state, which is especially useful when testing installers. Works great for me.

I am currently using Virtual PC 2007 SP1, which works fine, but of course there are other VM packages available.




RE: Software Testing
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 1/27/2009 1:59:21 PM , Rating: 2
Turn on the no save state TomZ, that way you can choose not to commit all the changes to the virtual machine once its shut down. Saves time having to copy the VHD file and plug it into the machine manager.


RE: Software Testing
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 3:42:40 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the tip. I had noticed that feature but I didn't try it yet.


RE: Software Testing
By hemming on 1/28/2009 10:58:51 AM , Rating: 2
You should take a look at the features in VMware Workstation. Snapshots are your save states, and the Unity Feature to run applications in headless mode (make a vm's program look as if it's native on the host system).

Tons of useful features in there too.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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