Up to now, enterprise needs have driven virtualization. I believe this will change with the move to client virtualization—unbinding the OS from the platform opens up cool new opportunities on the desktop.
In a virtualized environment, multiple virtual machines run different environments on the same platform. One could be running a secure Web browser so that viruses or malware can’t trash the rest of the system; another could run a dedicated gaming environment with a software stack optimized for gaming; and yet another could run Media Server to serve up video content over a home network.
A fourth scenario is the segregation of work and home applications. Let’s face it… even though most IT shops mandate that laptops are for business use only, the reality is that they are used for work and personal efforts. I have yet to run into a business traveler carrying two laptops—one for personal use and one for business use—to comply with their IT policies. Now imagine: as a mobile user with virtualization, you could maintain a home virtual machine and a work virtual machine on the same laptop. This certainly better segregates usage and is a more realistic approach to IT policies for our ever-increasing road warrior population. One other client opportunity is having a dedicated virtual machine to help with diagnostic or support services on a system.
David points out how valuable this concept could be when, say, migrating to a new computer where you would merely create a new VM for your new OS/applications and maintain a VM of your legacy OS/applications.
Returning to the scenario of a single application per virtual machine… what if you could purchase these preconfigured “personalities”—customized VMs—that plug into your virtualized client system. There is a clear opportunity here for the industry to seed the market with a variety of purpose-built VMs. I think this vision around virtualization is key to driving Linux adoption on the client. In fact, I challenged the Linux community in my April keynote to seed the market. In this new world, we will find Linux co-existing next to Microsoft on the same platform.
VMWare has already done work here on their Virtual Machine Technology Network (VMTN) where people have posted prepackaged VMs for general consumption. This is an early indication of where I think that things could move. However, software licensing will probably be the gating issue for these prepackaged VMs.
One of the biggest values of virtualization is the fact that it abstracts the operating environment from underlying platform. However, for this to be effective, we need some industry standards that minimize the associated snags. Watch this space… : )