We take another look at the impact of virtualization

While virtual machine technology is not particularly new, it has recently come of age. Those seem to be the prevailing sentiments of DailyTech readers, as expressed in commentary posted along with a recent series of virtualization-related articles running on the pages of DailyTech.

To put it more succinctly, “Virtualization has been around since the 60s, but it's never been so far out into the computing market as it's becoming today, nor has there been such cooperation on standards surrounding it,” reader MatthiasF wrote in a recent DailyTech posting.

While virtual machines may indeed date back to a technique born in the mainframes of the 1960s, the technology has made great strides since that time, becoming increasingly relevant and welcome to modern users, according to readers such as rippleyaliens. “Virtualization offers faster ability for deployment, and a different type of scaling. Instead of buying 1,000 servers -- all the same, yet with different workloads -- virtualization allows for . . .dynamic resource scheduling, i.e., moving more taxed servers over to (a server) that is not as taxed.”

Some readers argued that virtualization, and the closely related technology of cloud computing, are little more than empty buzzwords, rehashing old concepts and recycling them as new in order to generate sales and interest in a drifting IT economy. "`Cloud computing’ and `virtualization’ are almost interchangeable with `mainframe computing’ and `centralized computing’ from the 80s. Give it another 10 years and we will be back to powerful workstations at every desk,” quipped Master Kenobi.

However, several readers took issue with that position, arguing that virtualization and cloud computing may not be entirely new concepts, but they have gained new significance in today’s technology marketplace. “Virtualization has been around for over 40 years,” wrote AstroCreep, “but hasn't been seen as having any real value until the last ten years or so. Little real world meaning? No, far from it.” AstroCreep went on to describe rolling out three virtualized servers over the summer, leading to virtualizing 25 of his company’s 29 servers. “The savings on energy costs alone are enough to make up for the investment -- hardware and software.”

Server virtualization isn’t the only type of virtual machinery igniting conversation among DailyTech readers. Desktop virtualization was also top of mind, sparking a lively debate over the merits of this client-side technology. The pending release of Windows 7, which features a virtualized “XP Mode” in several versions, has added new fuel to the fire.

Several readers expressed disappointment that XP Mode will not provide the perfect environment for running their vintage 3D games, citing the virtualization software’s inability to fully support 3D graphics features.

“XP Mode does not support 3D acceleration, so unless you are playing DOS games that you could play in XP but not Vista, its not a gaming solution,” lamented omnicronx, who added, “This is not made for home users, its going to be marketed as a migration tool. I'm not saying home users can't take advantage, but they are not the primary focus of this software.”

Numerous business users appeared to be in agreement with this sentiment, citing a variety of corporate uses for the desktop virtualization scheme. “For developers that will be creating applications that will need to be deployed to both platforms, I see this as a great thing,” wrote bribud. “The developers will be able to switch back and forth to test out certain features that may be a problem on one OS, but not the other. (This) will save some companies some time and money.”

The ability to run legacy applications represents another major reason for businesses to adopt Windows 7’s XP Mode, according to several DailyTech posters. “The use of bad coding practices was endemic among these (legacy applications), and that meant Vista was a no-go unless they could run them under XP in a VM (virtual machine),” epobirs wrote. “XP Mode solves that very well.”

For example, “There is a critical app that is widely used by convalescent hospitals to produce their Medicare billing. It's pretty ugly and can't even install on Vista, never mind run on it. I've already tested it with the XP Mode beta and it works perfectly, integrating with the Win7 desktop in a way that require nearly no training of existing users,” according to epobirs. ”For me and my clients, XP Mode is a huge win.”

However, for some readers, too much of a good thing may actually be a bad thing. “Unfortunately this will give some programmers and companies an excuse to not replace old incompatible software,” wrote 3minence. “People need to see this for what it is, a tool to give them time to upgrade/replace their software in a timely and controlled manner; a stop-gap measure. . .But, people being people, some will still ignore the future and then scream loudly when the next version of Windows no longer provides this legacy support.”

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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