Saturday, November 11, 2006

VMworld 2006: It’s A Wrap

Last week's VMworld 2006 Conference is over, and it was a record-breaking event for VMware. With an estimated 7,000 attendees, the event continues to grow each year. There is clearly lots of interest in Virtual Machine technologies.

Manek Dubash of Techworld does a nice write-up of the event. Looks like VMware Workstation 6 will continue to be the tool-of-choice for dev/test use, with the following expected additions:

  • Record/replay - which allows you to record entire the runtime state of the VM as it changes, and then play it back for debugging purposes

  • Support for Vista as host and guest, and for Solaris 10 as a guest

  • Virtual battery for laptops that shows battery life

  • Easy virtual disk mounting for Windows so you can mount a VM disk file as a drive

  • New virtual hardware to include USB2 and a 64-bit sound driver

  • Max RAM moves from 4GB to 8GB

  • Improved and more flexible shared folders

  • Cross-platform drag and drop and copy/paste operations

  • Improved inter-operability with remote control software such as VNC

  • Support for multiple displays

  • Experimental support for quad-core machines and more virtual PCI slots

The killer feature here is the Record/Replay capability. Nice.

ACE 2.0 features were also divulged:
The product, which was demonstrated in alpha at VMworld this week, allows administrators to distribute pre-packaged virtual machines to users in a secure manner. This means, for instance, that contractors can be allowed to attach to the enterprise network using their own laptops but only via the ACE VM.

ACE (the Assured Computing Environment) is great because it gives IT administrators security and control over the client environment. It also puts VMware into a space owned by Citrix -- and it's not a small space. Expect other startups to go after similar opportunities, like Moka5. There is absolutely big money to be made here, as IT environments continue to pendulum swing of distributed vs centralized administration and the need to reduce the amount of human time consumed by client administration and maintenance. Virtual client machines allow for distributed clients that are managed and secured centrally.

VMware also announced the Virtual Appliance Marketplace. Virtual Appliances are a great way for companies to distribute their solutions in a pre-built, pre-configured, pre-tested, pre-certified environment. Also a nice way to package try-before-you-buy packages of solutions. After all, who really wants to install 10 different open source applications just to be able to test out your particular solution? Instead, just give them a nice clean VM with everything ready to go. Remove the friction. Check out rPath if you need help building one of these.

Mendel Rosenblum, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of VMware, did a keynote address. Particularly interesting to me was the mention of Nested Paging. Techworld covers it:
He also showed a demonstration of a future AMD CPU feature, Nested Paging. This technology moves the mapping of virtual machine memory page tables to physical memory into the CPU hardware. Rosenblum demonstrated an extreme example of how applications could be accelerated --AMD's Margaret Lewis said that acceleration of memory-intensive tasks such as compilation is likely to be around 43 per cent. Lewis said that this technology, first announced in August, would be available in 2008.

AMD continues to lead Intel in the hardware virtualization race (I, personally, like their SVM approach to Intel's). VMM page table mapping done by hardware would make a huge difference to overall perceived performance.

Finally, be sure to check out the Beta of VMware Lab Manager. This is the result of the Akimbi Systems acquisition that I've mentioned previously. I'm proud to have been an ever-so-tiny part of this success story. I look forward to watching the next steps of VMware's continued maturity.

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