Virtualization isn’t going anywhere soon.  The technology has well proven itself inside the data center and will continue to grow in popularity there.  However, client-based hypervisors are currently in development and will prove to be a boon for IT managers loathing the current state of desktop management.  Scott Lowe briefly explains his take on the client hypervisor.

If you haven’t implemented some kind of virtualization in your data center by this point, you’re in the minority.  Data center virtualization has become a common way to achieve higher levels of hardware utilization and consolidate servers onto less hardware.  Organizations have jumped all over this technology as a way to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

In the data center, hypervisor-based virtualization technology is used to achieve these aims.  In these cases, the hypervisor exists to enable disparate operating systems to run on the same hardware.  Although some commonality between servers is a good thing, in the data center, the goal is to run workloads necessary to enable the business.  This could mean that a mail server running Linux runs on the same hardware as a database server running Windows.

Virtualization in the data center is definitely a good thing for the reasons that I just mentioned. However, from a technical and efficiency perspective, a client hypervisor would be a huge boon, but for different reasons.  One of the major challenges in the realm of desktop management lies in image management.  For every new batch of computers, a new image is necessary, along with the hope that everything will work just right.  Of course, there are other tools out there that can help handle this dilemma, but a client-based hypervisor would be the ultimate solution.  A client-based hypervisor would allow an organization to support a single desktop image, regardless of how many desktops or desktop models exist in the organization.  As is the case with the server hypervisor, a client hypervisor would abstract the system hardware from the equation, making driver issues a thing of the past as it relates to image management.

Today, there is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that is a step in this direction, but still relies on a client that may or may not be consistent across the organization.  VDI is still a client-centric server-based computing architecture.  The actual desktops are housed on servers and can be absolutely consistent across the organization, but there is still the hassle of managing clients, whether they’re Linux-based thin clients or systems running Windows XP Embedded.  VDI can make use of a hypervisor, but it’s still server-based.  Even with this limitation, VDI is getting a lot of attention and is a technology we’re seriously considering at Westminster College.

There are companies, including VMware, working on client-based bare-metal hypervisors, but development will likely be much more difficult than server-based counterparts.  A much wider array of hardware will need to be supported, including different processors and graphics adapters.  However, once these clients are developed, I predict that their uptake will be swift as IT managers everywhere rejoice in an ability to manage a single desktop image.


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