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Operating Systems Software Virtualization

Inside VMware's 'Virtual Datacenter OS' 121

snydeq writes "Neil McAllister cuts through VMware's marketing hype to examine the potential impact of VMware's newly pronounced 'virtual datacenter OS' — which the company has touted as the death knell for the traditional OS. Literally an operating system for the virtual datacenter, VDC OS is an umbrella concept to build services and APIs that make it easier to provision and allocate resources for apps in an abstract way. Under the system, McAllister writes, apps are reduced to 'application workloads' tailored through vApp, a tool that will allow developers to 'encapsulate the entire app infrastructure in a single bundle — servers and all.' The concept could help solve the current bugbear of programming, parallel processing, McAllister concludes, assuming VMware succeeds."
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Inside VMware's 'Virtual Datacenter OS'

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  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:26AM (#25084733)
    The whole point of time-sharing operating systems in the first place was to allow many competing applications to get along yet protect them from each other. We have layer upon layer of redundancy built in; a Java VM running on an x86 VM running on a CPU operating in protected mode. Then somebody comes along and says, "hey I have a breakthrough idea, let's just use ONE of those layers!"

    The real nut of my questions is, what would we need to add to more conventional OS's (linux) to get the job done? For my money, the biggest problem is package interdependencies. IMHO much VM usage is actually just to address that issue. We need package management that isolates applications from each other, giving the appearance of a custom chroot environment for each, while silently sharing resources (such as .so's) that just happen to be the same in multiple applications.

  • by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:31AM (#25084757)

    Getting traditional "silo" orientated programmers to use distributed computing is hard now!

    This server is for chocolate, this one for peanut butter... don't let them touch!

    Even GRID enabled software like Informatica is hard to get them to understand. Don't worry where it runs, don't try to segregate workloads... the software is smarter than you!

    Let it do it's damn job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:56AM (#25084921)

    I have used VDC OS. Ultimately it is just a convergence of the existing technologies Vmware has already been developing, upgraded to a new level. I can say, it is very, very nice and clean.

    What it gives a data center manager is abstraction and ease of use. The physical way everything is deployed one-off into a datacenter, you need a new application, it involves buying new servers, racks, power and whatnot. If you need to move those servers to another center, or deal with business continuance and disaster recovery, it is a new discrete project.

    With VDC, no more. You build all of that into the datacenter "OS", and when a new application comes along they are put into the VDC OS and they inherit everything, not just HA but BC, DR and all of the ease of use. If they don't want BC or DR, they don't pay into that bucket.

    Need to move a Datacenter? Use the DR solutions in VDC OS, and you can do it in the middle of the day without your users noticing more than a slight 5-minute bump (or so--largely to let the network routes update).

    VMware is so far beyond everybody else in the virutalization industry, it is almost comical to hear other people shout the battle cry of 'Xen' or 'Hyper-V'. Those are nice toys, but the surrounding tools are klunky and almost non-functional, leaving just the hypervisor. What VMware is trying to say with "VDC OS" is that the game already left the hypervisor, that is why everybody is all but giving the hypervisor away for free now.

    I may sound like a fanboy, but after having worked in the datacenter for 15+ years I can say this technology really works, and its about time. We can now move the datacenter from the hobbiest market it has been in up to now, into the dialtone it should be.

  • by giuntag ( 833437 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @11:04AM (#25084961) Homepage
    in short, are you advocating usage of virtuozzo?
  • by infomodity ( 1368149 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @11:10AM (#25084997)
    We have IEEE and RFC for standardization of ethernet/switching and routing respectively. What standards exist for virtual environments? As commercial security vendors move into this space, we're headed back into a cycle of supporting multiple architectures. "Security Vendor X" must now understand how VMWare, Hyper-V, Xen, and other VM environments perform their networking. Virtualization of the entire OSI model renders the physical and data link layers obsolete. Why emulate them at that point? Not to say ethernet will disappear, but I can see a point where operating systems evolve branches that run in pure play virtual environments. Those offshoots will shed unnecessary things like MAC addresses as the VM vendors begin defining the new network standards themselves.
  • Hmm OpenMosix (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @11:17AM (#25085021)
    Openmosix project closed earlier this year and suddenly vmware has a way to run one "OS" over multiple computers. Hmmm...
  • by Ralish ( 775196 ) <> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:27PM (#25086031) Homepage

    One of my main problems with VMWare is that a VM itself takes so much disk space that it takes a long time to work with (copy, archive etc) and I can't fit many on my laptop. Somewhat paradoxically, it must be possible to snapshot an application with its entire environment so you have a known working version.

    If I'm understanding you correctly, the solution you are after is already offered by VMware: []

    Make sure to check the features tab for a more summarized and technical overview of what exactly ThinApp does and is capable of. Unfortunately, ThinApp is currently Windows only; I have no idea if they are intending to support Unix OS's in the future.

    Is this the sort of functionality you are thinking about? Apologies if I've misintepreted your comment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:52PM (#25086209)

    Yeah, the price on the hypervisor layer has fallen so much, we're now pricing out options to customers where they don't have to pay for software. Small business looking to do a hardware refresh? Virtualize all your servers on this one system booting from a USB key, and mount this iSCSI array we set up for you over here.

    All the software is free (as in beer) and some is even Free (as in speech) as well, and this is all low end offerings. Everyone else is behind the game once you move past that arena. I'm not fond of monoculture at all, but VMware has the high end market for this tech locked up. At home I'm experimenting with the likes of VirtualBox and kvm/qemu on a quad core server, but I've no illusions of these solutions competing with VMware's high end. Not for a few years, anyway. (As an aside, I really think kvm will be awesome down the road, it just needs a lot of refinement and work)

  • by Natales ( 182136 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:53PM (#25086213)

    Disclaimer: I work for VMware, and I just came back from VMworld in Vegas (exhausted BTW).

    In all my 5 years in the company, I must say that this is the most comprehensive re-thinking of the long-term strategy for virtualization I've seen to date. It brings a new sense of direction that matches where the markets are going.

    I agree with most of the comments in this thread regarding the benefits of the VDC-OC, but this is just one part of this picture. IMHO, the biggest change is the "Federation with the Cloud" strategy, where a company may choose to use, move or spawn new or existing workloads directly into a service provider on-demand, maintaining the SLAs (from security to capacity) and then bring them back to the internal cloud if needed.

    I mean, go a talk to a CFO or a COO, and they'll [most of the time] politely complain about IT being expensive, and not fast enough to react to the changes the company needs. Shared services are still seen as optional and many business units still prefer to implement their own thing. With this model, IT becomes a true utility, with a pay-as-you-go menu that implements a coherent chargeback model that will bring a smile to the guys in dark suits.

    Even if VMware doesn't succeed in these efforts, the genie is out of the bottle and somebody else will make it happen.

    Really interesting times to be in IT.

  • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:51PM (#25086627) Homepage
    VMware isn't claiming these ideas are new. IBM and computer science departments around the world has been talking about these ideas for many years. The difference is that VMware has an implementation that will work on x86 hardware that can bring the benefits of these ideas to a large market. In some sense we've come full circle as we moved from mainframes and room size computers to PCs and commodity hardware and now back to computers in a datacenter (a very big room). However, you can't just dismiss the new-old idea and say "I told you so" because there are differences between the current implementation and the old one. The x86 hardware is one difference. Another is the fact that the computing hardware are clusters of relatively inexpensive servers rather than a few large boxes. These kinds of hardware are more much prolific than the IBM hardware and thus the VMware solution is more accessible. I can't say if one solution is technically better than the other. However, the VMware solution works in the current x86 environment/market that is a result of the history of the industry.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984