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March 08, 2009

Virtual Clouds

Virtualization and cloud computing are two areas that I think are coming together in a way that will have a huge impact on how we work with computers.  In this post I'm going to talk about virtualization.  I've been playing with Virtual PC 2007, a free download from Microsoft.  I'm running it underWindows 7.


Virtualization is the idea of having one computer run in software a emulation of another computer.  This isn't new - there have been emulators around since I was a young programmer, but I think we are starting to see an explosion in the use of virtualization, and average people will start benefiting from virtualization.  Already in my company we've virtualized many servers, so instead of having lots of little servers that aren't doing much more than wasting power most of the time, we run them as software simulations on bigger, but fewer servers. 


The benefits of virtual machines are many.  Besides using less power and generating less greenhouse gases, they actually can be easier to use.  To get a development machine ready to use, someone has to purchase and configure the hardware, load the operating system, get the machine on the network, patch it, load all the applications, create user accounts and then maybe it is ready to use.  A physical machine is fragile.  As soon as you login you start changing the configuration.  You run your applications, they drop temporary files and change system configurations.  It doesn't take long before the machine is in a funky state.  With a physical machine, you format the disk, and start loading CDs hoping you don't miss a step until you get it back to a clean state.


With a virtual machine, you just restart the virtual machine from the snapshot you saved when you had the machine in just the right configuration.  You can also run multiple copies of the virtual machine, so if you need four servers to play with, you create four virtual servers.  Need an old Windows 98 machine?  No problem, create a virtual machine, load a Windows 98 image and off you go.  How about running Linux under windows?  No problem.  Below is a screen shot I just made of my Windows 7 machine running Virtual PC 2007 and it is running virtual machines running Vista, DSL Linux and then just for good fun, I'm running an emulator of UNIVAC 1, the first commercial computer ever.  Next up is a Macintosh emulator and that Atari 800 I always wanted.


In my next post, I'll talk a little about cloud computing and how it will combine with virtualization. 


Virtual machines capture  

March 8, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink


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