Virtualization and Linux together can play a strong role in both the enterprise and on the client side, said Kevin Kettler, chief technology officer of Dell Inc. in his keynote Wednesday at the Linuxworld Expo and Conference in Boston.
"Linux is bound by traditional operating system-to-platforms ties, and virtualization can set it free. Virtualization opens up opportunities for unique software applications and environments to reside on a single platform," Kettler said.
While the concept of virtualization is not new, it is attracting renewed interest because of technological advances such as the emergence of multicore processors, forthcoming multiple-resource I/O capabilities and virtualization technologies built into next-generation processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp., Kettler said.
"There's a significant shift in the industry relative to where we were a few years ago with virtualization," Kettler said.
Kettler acknowledged that much more work needs to be done in the next several years for users to reap the full benefits of virtualization, and he urged the Linux community to play a role in this process.
"I am making a call to action here, not just to I/O silicon vendors, but there are software, standards and interfaces for how this all comes together. There is a lot of work ahead to flush this out for interoperability between hardware platforms and virtualized environments where you can put virtual machines onto quite disparate hardware platforms and all should mix and match together beautifully," Kettler said.
He also urged the software industry to "rethink" licensing agreements for virtualized environments.
On the enterprise side, Kettler said Linux has moved from the network edge to the data center and is now being used for some critical business applications. As an example, he talked about how Dell is using Linux in supercomputers and within its own business for critical applications such as SCM (supply chain management).
Kettler said virtualization will play a key role in Dell's "scalable enterprise" strategy by giving businesses a cleaner approach to reallocating hardware resources for applications based on demand.
"There are tools and software to do this today, but with a virtualized environment we begin to get much cleaner around how we wrap and package things and redeployment and reuse becomes phenomenal," Kettler said.
While virtualization has until now been driven by enterprise needs, Kettler predicted that's about to change with a shift toward virtualization on the client side. He showed how client-side virtualization could allow users to run multiple OSes to improve productivity, provide secure Web browsing and enhance digital entertainment in such areas as gaming.
As an example of secure browsing, he demonstrated on a Red Hat Xen virtualization-enabled Dell Optiplex desktop how a user could create a virtual machine and then if it were infected by a virus, destroy that virtual machine and re-create a new one.
He also showed how virtualization could be used to run Red Hat and Windows Server on two virtual machines on the same desktop. One potential advantage of client-side virtualization could be to ease OS migrations by keeping an old OS in a virtual machine and gradually migrating to a new OS in a new virtual machine, Kettler said.
Attendees at the LinuxWorld conference also see strides on the virtualization front.
"Virtualization as a concept has been around for a while, but with the advent of VMware there was a first wave of innovation and now with companies like with SWSoft, as an example, it seems like there are a whole wave of fresh stabs at virtualization," said Andrew Widdowson, with Bose Corp.
"We have already gone with VMware, but if we were in the same position now the choice would be much more difficult, Xen development is much more embraced now," said Timothy Antonowicz, systems administrator, Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. The school has virtualized about 60 percent of its environment, Antonowicz said.
Yet, not everyone is jumping on the virtualization bandwagon. Several attendees either said they don't see a need for virtualization or that the technology has not matured enough for their liking.