Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Destiny Bertucci, Stackify Blog, XebiaLabs Blog

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Two Views of Virtualization: Does It Mean the End of the OS?

Within or outside the OS - what does the Virtualization future hold?

Scott Lowe's Blog

There appear to be basically two views on how virtualization will affect the future development of operating systems and computing environments in the personal computing space. One camp believes that virtualization functionality will be present within the operating system. The other camp believes it will be outside the operating system, perhaps in the form of a hypervisor or thin virtualization layer that resides “below” the OS and governs access to hardware.


There appear to be basically two views on how virtualization will affect the future development of operating systems and computing environments in the personal computing space. One camp believes that virtualization functionality will be present within the operating system. Whether that virtualization functionality comes bundled with the operating system or is a third-party add-on to the operating system is, quite frankly, irrelevant to this particular discussion. The other camp believes that virtualization will be outside the operating system, perhaps in the form of a hypervisor or thin virtualization layer that resides “below” the OS and governs access to hardware. Again, the discussion of whether this virtualization layer comes bundled with the hardware or comes from a third-party vendor is an interesting discussion (and one that I’d like to have), but is not relevant right at this moment.

My discussions of application agnosticism puts me in the camp that places virtualization functionality in the operating system. On the desktop side (not speaking of servers here), that kind of makes sense to me. It seems to me that the simplest approach - placing virtualization functionality within the operating system - is likely to be the approach that most people will accept. We have to keep in mind that millions of users out there are not nearly as technical as we are, and for them simple is good. It may not be the most technologically advanced approach but rather the simpler approach that wins out (especially on the consumer side).

Now, having said all that, I’d like to take a closer look at the alternate approach to having virtualization placed within the operating system. In this scenario, there is virtualization functionality that sits below the idea of today’s general purpose OS. For those of you familiar with ESX Server, think of it that way - some sort of bare metal virtualization layer that controls the hardware. From there, a collection of VMs will cooperatively provide the various services that are today provided by the general purpose OS. This idea is expressed in this article by Ron Oglesby (also linked to by this VMTN Blog entry as well).

In this approach, you might have a networking VM that is responsible for scanning inbound and outbound traffic, managing security policies, interacting with corporate networks and network access controls, etc. You can think of this as the “firewall” component of the general purpose OS (Windows Firewall on Windows, ipfw on Mac OS X, iptables on Linux), but more feature-rich and more isolated (the idea being that it is therefore more secure and harder to bypass or disable). Likewise, you might have a VM designed specifically for running sensitive corporate applications, a VM for surfing the Internet, and a VM that provides anti-virus services to the other VMs. Taken individually, none of these VMs could replace today’s general purpose OS; taken as a whole, the collection of VMs provides the services and functionality of a general purpose OS, but with greater isolation, encapsulation, and protection between these “service” VMs.

Is this a viable approach? Not today, in my opinion, but certainly in the future. (To be completely fair, Ron’s article was written in the context of the long-term impact of virtualization, so we can’t really look at today’s feasibility.) As Intel and AMD continue to add virtualization support in hardware and performance draws nearer to “native” performance, this definitely becomes a more viable approach. A couple questions persist in my mind, though:

  • What is the mechanism whereby a user adds new functionality to their computing environment, i.e., how does a user add a new service VM?
  • What kind of mechanism or tools are provided to the user to help manage, operate, or configure these service VMs?

Let’s say that the user’s “normal” working environment exists in a VM that runs Windows, Linux, or the like. We’ll call this VM-Home. From VM-Home, the user needs to be able to access the functionality of a networking/firewall VM (we’ll call this VM-FW) and a corporate applications VM (we’ll call this VM-Corp). How does the user go about switching between these VMs, like between VM-Home and VM-Corp? Does each VM provide its own windowing environment? How is switching between these windowing environments handled? Is there a common windowing environment provided by the virtualization layer? Is there some internal networking connectivity between VM-Home and VM-FW that allows the user to manage the VM-FW functionality? Where does the user go, or what program does the user run, to add a new VM (say, an anti-virus VM) to his/her environment?

“Scott, stop being so picky,” you say. “This is all being talked about in theory, anyway. It’s not like we need to have all the answers right now.”

You’re right, we don’t. But as we look at how these questions may be answered (someone’s got to answer them sometime), it seems that we’ll need to add some functionality to the virtualization layer in order to make it easier/more seamless to switch between the VM environments. Users will want a seamless UI to work with, so we may need to add a windowing environment to the virtualization layer. Either that or we’ll have to enable some sort of mechanism whereby other VMs can display windows inside another VM, and now we’re breaking down the isolation/protection boundaries that we originally found to be desirable. Users will want to be able to copy and paste between the VM environments, so we’ll need to add that functionality to the virtualization layer. Users will want to be able to double-click an icon and have it launch in the appropriate VM environment, so now we’ve got to add some links and communications channels between the various VM components in our computing solution. As each of these pieces of functionality is added, the virtualization layer starts to look more like a general purpose OS—just one that’s leaner, meaner, and free of years of legacy code.

As this virtualization layer starts to resemble a general purpose OS and as the general purpose OS starts to incorporate technologies such as virtualization, application-specific subsystems, and the like, these two start to look a lot like each other. That brings us back to a central question in this discussion, a question I asked when I first started discussing the future of the OS:

So I guess the future of the operating system depends on your perspective. If you’re an operating system guy, you’ll say that the OS has a bright future, and point to developments such as built-in paravirtualization and bundled hypervisors to prove your point. If you’re a virtualization guy, you’ll say that the OS is dead, and you’ll point to developments such as third-party paravirtualization and independent hypervisors to prove your point. Which of these two is correct?

Indeed! Which approach do you think desktop computing will take? Application agnosticism, in which virtualization and other technologies are placed within the operating system, or groups of virtual machines (“VM cooperatives”? “VM federations”? “OS agnosticism”? Need a fancy marketing term again…) coordinated by a hardware/firmware virtualization layer?

What do you think?

 

More Stories By Scott Lowe

Scott Lowe is a senior engineer with ePlus, a local reseller/VAR in Raleigh, NC, where he specializes in server virtualization, storage, and related enterprise technologies. He has been in the IT field for more than 15 years, starting out with desktop support. Along the way, he has worked as an instructor, a technical trainer and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), systems administrator, IT manager, and as Chief Technology Officer for a small start-up.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Virtualisatie 05/15/08 12:28:30 PM EDT

Trackback Added: Verdwijnt het operating systeem als gevolg van virtualisatie?; Scott Lowe gaat in zijn blog in op de vraag of de huidige visualisatiegolf ervoor zal zorgen dat het operating systeem (O/S) in de personal computing hoek gaat verdwijnen. Dat is namelijk een stelling die wel eens vanuit de VMware hoek wordt ingenomen...

Bert Bouwhuis 05/15/08 10:12:37 AM EDT

You are doing an excellent job in phrasing the right questions. However, somehow we have all accepted the notion of a BIOS as a layer between the hardware and the operating system in the personal computing space. At least a layer in time (you need the BIOS to boot the O/S), but also a static layer supporting functions as advanced power management for the O/S during operation. Somehow, this hypervisor discussion reminds me of just an 'extended' BIOS. Actually, this seems to be exactly what Phoenix had in mind with their HyperCore / HyperSpace layer (see e.g. David Marshall's discussion at http://weblog.infoworld.com/virtualization/archives/2007/11/phoenix_tech... ). Wouldn't it then be reasonable to expect all future systems to have a HyperCore type of layer providing basic functions (browsing, media playing, remote desktop, …), while at the same time providing the hypervisor functionality for added operating systems (that is, if the user needs one)? That way the industry will at least have a chance to design a leaner and meaner core O/S free of legacy code, just as you suggested. For a while, users would have the freedom to add traditional O/S’s on top of that core. After some years (?) the core would be rich enough to support 90% of end-users without adding any O/S.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...