VMware's Greene: Virtual Appliances Will End Reign Of The OS

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Kicking off the virtualization software maker's VMworld event in Los Angeles, Greene said the painful and time-consuming process of migrating to new versions of Windows and other operating systems will become obsolete in the virtual era.

"Everyone is marching to the cadence of the operating system, but when it moves forward, it controls the hardware and the software. When you buy the OS, the applications are tied to the physical processor. How archaic is that?" Greene told thousands of VMware attendees. "The virtualization layer got inserted there. Now the operating system has become an extension of the application stack."

Greene's comments followed VMware's launch on Tuesday of a marketplace and a certification program for virtual appliances.

Currently, 300 virtual appliances are available from VMware's Web site, and they can run on any hardware and on VMware's infrastructure, VMware Server or VMWare Player. ISVs and IHVs including B-hive, Astaro, Zeus and Zimbra announced virtual appliances based on VMware's platform.

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But Greene and others claim that recent announcements from Oracle and Microsoft underscore that a sea change is under way in the platforms business, and it's being driven by the emergence of virtualization software.

One shift is the emergence of virtual software appliances that fuse the operating system and application stack within virtual machines that are prebuilt, preconfigured and ready to run independent of the hardware.

"Oracle is doing Linux as an extension of the application stack and supporting the entire stack, and Microsoft announced the shipment of demo virtual appliances with SQL Server and Exchange to run on virtualized software. The virtual appliances bundle the operating system," Greene said.

"There's a more profound change going on in how you build software, test it, package it up and distribute it, and the role of the operating system is chosen by the application," she continued. "There's a phenomenal opportunity to change the status quo."

Greene's statements come just weeks before Microsoft is set to launch Windows Vista, its first major upgrade of the Windows desktop operating system in five years. Her words, too, come on the heels of a historic pact between rivals Microsoft and Novell, which pledged to make their virtualized Windows and Linux workloads interoperate better and support mixed virtualized environments for joint customers. Novell's SUSE Linux integrates the open-source Xen hypervisor, which competes with VMware's hypervisor.

Microsoft, for its part, agrees that virtualization is changing the OS industry but disagrees that the end result will be a plethora of virtual appliances.

"We think the hypervisor is becoming an integrated part of the operating system. We see how Novell is shipping Xen with SUSE, and [Microsoft's planned] Viridian [hypervisor] is shipping with the Longhorn server," said David Kaefer, general manager of IP licensing at Microsoft.

"We don't see the operating system as a nice-to-have-element and, on this aspect, we disagree with VMware," Kaefer added. "There will be scenarios for virtual appliances but, if anything, we see the proliferation of many applications on one server. Why would you run one application dedicated on one server?