News.com writes about a primarily mainframe technology that IBM is now making on lower priced computers:
The package, called Virtualization Engine, is designed to make IBM’s Power servers better able to juggle multiple loads and provides a foundation for an infrastructure that can respond automatically to changing priorities in a company’s workloads.
Virtualization is a technology that makes computers more adaptable by breaking the tight link between software and the hardware on which it runs.
One key mainframe feature copied by Unix server designers is partitioning, the ability to slice a server up into independent pieces that each run their own operating system. With today’s Power4-based pSeries Unix servers and iSeries midrange servers, IBM could create as many partitions as there were processors.
With the virtualization technology of Power5, IBM will increase this to 10 partitions per processor. And by extending virtualization from the processor to encompass input-output as well, Big Blue will enable Power5 partitions to share connections to the network and storage systems instead of requiring a separate physical adapter for each partition.
Many companies are working on data center management and virtualization technologies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Dell, Intel, EMC, Veritas, Opsware and others. And virtualization is even being brought to personal computer technology, enabling several versions of Linux or Windows to run on Intel microprocessors or Intel-compatible Advanced Micro chips. In December, EMC paid $635 million to buy VMware, which makes virtualization software for running Windows and Linux. And Microsoft last year bought Connectix, which makes virtualization software.
I.B.M. will offer some of its new technology on its Intel-based servers, but analysts say the company’s real advantage should come in servers using I.B.M.’s Power family of microprocessors. In the Power machines, the virtualization software is built right into the chip, as microcode, instead of as a separate layer of software. Today, I.B.M. uses the Power chips in servers that run Unix and in its midrange I-series machines, the former AS-400 minicomputers.
But virtualization technology opens the door to eliminating the tight link between a specific microprocessor and a certain operating system. Microsoft’s Windows, for example, runs on Intel and Intel-compatible microprocessors.
Strategically, the I.B.M. approach is quite different from technology leaders, like Intel and Microsoft, that specialize in either hardware or software. “In the future, advantage is not going to be so much in the chip or the operating system, but in the management and control layer of technology,” said William Zeitler, senior vice president of I.B.M.’s computer systems group.
This can be a key enabler for utility computing.