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Windows 7's XP Mode is one example of how virtualization is becoming more useful to home users and business users alike.
Virtualization is a way of getting more out of the same hardware -- are you taking advantage of it

While virtualization is not without its share of detractions, its allure is great. After all, it promises to make compatibility and resource management woes -- two eternal computer problems -- things of the past. 

Imagine being freed from fears of software compatibility, and being able to reclaim your idle hardware for a purpose.  That's the premise behind virtualization.  While new users may still not have heard of virtualization or understand its benefits, the movement is growing and it may eventually become as ubiquitous a concept as the desktop operating system.

Virtualization is divided into two key categories -- application virtualization and platform virtualization.  The goal of application virtualization is to provide compatibility layers.  This could allow you to, say run an old Windows 3.1 program on a Linux operating system.  The open source project Wine is an example of this kind of virtualization.

The second category is platform virtualization -- bringing the whole OS onboard.  There's a variety of ways of accomplishing this with solutions available in both the desktop and server markets.  Some solutions have multiple kernels (a central component of the OS) running in parallel, with one for each virtual machine (full virtualization), while other schemes involve a single kernel managing multiple virtual servers (a server is the interface users use to interact with the OS -- how we perceive Windows) allowing them to all to run at once.  Windows 7's XP Mode is one example of such a scheme -- in Windows 7 a guest virtual machine for Windows XP runs on the system, which communicates through the host Windows 7 kernel.

Some platform virtualization implementations, such as XP Mode, use redirection of input to accomplish application virtualization via platform virtualization rather than a compatibility layer.  The experience is more seamless as the Windows are displayed inline without the need to physically switch to a virtual machine window and navigate through its own windows.

A final important aspect of virtualization is the cloud computing movement.  Though not all cloud computing involves virtualization, many cloud deployments involve sharing virtualized resources over a network.  Shared resources are nothing new, but by virtualizing them, it lowers overhead and ensures that resources are efficiently used.  Google, IBM, and Microsoft are just a few of the major names delving into this field.  An example of cloud computing that even novice users can appreciate is Microsoft Office 2010, which will be available as free web applications for home users.

Virtualization is a fast evolving field and it is not without its problems and obstacles.  One obstacle is cost.  While costs of virtualization are dropping (Windows virtual machines for home users come with copies of Windows 7 Professional at no extra cost), deploying such a solution at your business may require some up-front IT investment and hours.  In the long run it will save costs, but for cash-strapped businesses, this can be a deterrent to adoption, albeit one that will eventually be overcome.

Another more serious challenge is the increased likelihood of interruption of service.  By putting more services on a single set of hardware you raise the damage that could be caused by a power failure -- either at your location or from your system's power supply.  Furthermore, by running your hardware under larger workloads, you run the risk of a higher incidence of part failures.  Again, this is unproven territory as the field is still young, but logic dictates that hardware flexed to its full capacity will likely experience more failures than hardware that spends a significant amount of time in idle.  As the deployment of virtual machines is in the hands of system administrators, it’s up to them to make sure that they're not overburdening hardware.

A final challenge is security.  By placing multiple virtual machines on a single set of hardware, you run the risk of an escalated intrusion threat if an attacker can compromise the hypervisor layer -- the layer beneath the virtual machines.  Also in a guest/host setup (like Windows XP Mode) you run the risk of guest-to-host attacks, which can exploit vulnerabilities in legacy operating systems or applications.  Thankfully, such attacks have thus far been rare, but proof-of-concept exploits show the need for vigilance.  As always, diligent patching and careful system administration can protect your virtualized network against most threats.

With that said, how is virtualization impacting you?   How are you adopting virtualization at your home or business?  And, if you're not adopting virtualization, what's holding you back?



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By Yawgm0th on 7/23/2009 8:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
While virtualization is not without its share of detractions, its allure is great. After all, it promises to make compatibility and resource management woes -- two eternal computer problems -- things of the past.
Are those really what you think the primary reasons for virtualization are? I guess you could file particular benefits of it under "fixing resource management woes," but that's really missing the point IMO.

quote:
Imagine being freed from fears of software compatibility, and being able to reclaim your idle hardware for a purpose. That's the premise behind virtualization.
Virtualization can create a whole new set of software compatibility problems, and it certainly is not a panacea for old ones. I think you might be confusing it with emulation in this regard. Either way, software compatibility and idle hardware usage are not the singular or primary premise behind virtualization (nor are they even singular...).

quote:
While new users may still not have heard of virtualization or understand its benefits, the movement is growing and it may eventually become as ubiquitous a concept as the desktop operating system.
Virtualization predates desktop operating systems by decades. I don't see it having much conceptual room to grow in terms of ubiquity.

quote:
The goal of application virtualization is to provide compatibility layers. This could allow you to, say run an old Windows 3.1 program on a Linux operating system. The open source project Wine is an example of this kind of virtualization.
This is so wrong it hurts. Application virtualization separates files and settings of applications from the operating system, but it is still heavily reliant on the underlying operating system. WINE is not application virtualization, it is a translation layer. Translation layers, binary translators, and emulators are quite distinct in purpose, scope, and function from application virtualization. Application virtualization, by definition, does not cross platforms.

quote:
The second category is platform virtualization -- bringing the whole OS onboard. In this scheme, the kernel (a central component of the OS) may allow multiple servers (the interface users use to interact with the OS -- how we perceive Windows) to run at once. The second server can be run parallel to the first or as a guest program within the first, as with Windows 7's XP Mode.
I don't know how to fight you on this. Your terminology and understanding of everything here is so wrong I just can't fix this.

quote:
A final important aspect of virtualization is the cloud computing movement. Cloud computing can involve sharing virtualized resources over a network. Shared resources are nothing new, but by virtualizing them, it lowers overhead and ensures that resources are efficiently used. Google, IBM, and Microsoft are just a few of the major names delving into this field. An example of cloud computing that even novice users can appreciate is Microsoft Office 2010, which will be available as free web applications for home users.
Cloud computing is not a form or product of virtualization. It is a completely separate concept entirely, and is definitely not new.

quote:
Another more serious challenge is the increased likelihood of interruption of service. By putting more services on a single set of hardware you raise the damage that could be caused by a power failure -- either at your location or from your system's power supply.
Properly implemented server virtualization should decrease the likely of interruption. If uptime is mission-critical (and if an organization is seriously implementing virtualization, it is), services should be fault-tolerant in some form of another -- generally redundancy and clustering. This translates extremely well to virtualized environments. Spending the same amount of money, an organization should ultimately be decreasing the failure rate of all services. Since virtual machines' operating systems are stored as files and the drivers are for virtual hardware, downtime is also dramatically reduced in many environments due to the relative ease and speed of loading them into new VMs.

Also, why the nonsense about power supply? Ever heard of hard drives or motherboards failing? I've seen more of both than power supplies -- that's just my anecdote, but my point is that it seems silly to mention power concerns. Hardware failure regardless of the cause, is the problem one needs to watch out for. This is true with or without virtual machines.

quote:
Furthermore, by running your hardware under larger workloads, you run the risk of a higher incidence of part failures. Again, this is unproven territory as the field is still young, but logic dictates that hardware flexed to its full capacity will likely experience more failures than hardware that spends a significant amount of time in idle.
This is just irrelevant, and contradictory. First you talk about using idle resources, and now you seem to think using them is a bad thing since using them breaks them. In any case, one doesn't utilize or not utilize a system because it will put a strain on resources -- the resource is used if it's needed and not if it's not needed. What a ridiculous concept.

quote:
With that said, how is virtualization impacting you? How are you adopting virtualization at your home or business? And, if you're not adopting virtualization, what's holding you back?
I use it extensively at home, but my company is to small and too cheap to do it -- yet. Once we're ready to start consolidating some of our servers, we'll almost certainly be using either VMWare or Citrix. The smart thing would be to do it now, but upper management is not willing to spend anything on new IT projects, no matter if there will be long-term ROI or if it's necessary to prevent major service disruption.

I hate for this to seem like a rant or personal attack, but I just couldn't let this one slip. This article is just so wrong about so many things. It reads like a poorly researched high school essay mixed with a poorly researched high school newspaper article.




By rippleyaliens on 7/24/2009 12:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
Some more additional things to be said about virtualization..
1. Lower COST.. meaning , that instead of purchasing a $2500 server, just to run DNS, Light Web Servers, Secondary Domain Controllers, MGMT Servers, etc.. Why Rack up Huge Equipment costs, for such low impact server.
2. TESTING!!!!! How will a particular App Server Work, PERIOD,, not just in the environment, but will it work.
3. QA.. How will said app, solution impact the environment. TEST it first, on a reproduction, if works, then roll out to production.
4. TRAINING.. Which encompass all the above..

Myself, i run Vmware ESX AT HOME. (60 day evals, on StarWind iSCSI Target the free version).. So instead of my old days, of 20+ Desktop servers, Gobbling up ALOT of power.. I have 3, White box Servers, that run ESX.. 2 are part of a Vmware datacenter, with the 3rd server running my iscsi san+DC+file server+ SQL server, + Virtual Center Server+Citrix DC's, + Mgmt servers.. And on the 2 that are in Data Center, a Mix of servers, to test, test, test, and prove , prove, prove.. concepts..

This is where virtualization got its start was via a test platform, and has evolved to the Datacenter.. For Disaster Recover , There is no other way to realistically do a 1:1, unless your pockets are Microsoft/google DEEP. With Server sprawl, and if ya work in ANY environment, in which you have over 10 servers, you know what server sprawl is.. The cost factor alone of power/cooling, can make your heard spin, ROFL..... Let alone the simple, yet in fact the most expensive portion of that ,, which involves the Paying that little salary to the Many people who have to keep that environment running... lol


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