Intel touts virtualisation as the 'data centre OS'

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Intel touts virtualisation as the 'data centre OS'

Virtualisation will enable a new "data centre operating system", according to Pat Gelsinger, Intel's senior vice president for enterprise systems.

Gelsinger made the prediction during a keynote at the VMworld conference in San Francisco.

"Virtualisation will bring profound changes to how we look at the data centre," Gelsinger told delegates. "It offers an opportunity to create the data centre operating system of tomorrow."

The term 'operating system' in Gelsinger's keynote did not indicate software like Windows and Linux. Instead, the Intel executive was referring to a base infrastructure layer on top of which firms can install and run their software.

In addition to basic virtualisation technology, Gelsinger's 'operating system' is enabled by technologies such as VMware's Vmotion and XenSource's XenMotion. Both allow virtual systems to be moved to a different server while they are running.

Gordon Haff, a principal IT advisor with analyst firm Illuminata, compared Gelsinger's vision to programmes such as HP's Utility Data Centre, IBM's autonomic computing technology or Sun Microsystems' N1.

These programmes promise centrally managed server pools where compute capacity is dynamically assigned to applications.

"This is the concept of managing the data centre as a single entity rather than as a bunch of semi-disconnected boxes," Haff told "This is the evolution of how larger data centres deal with lots of x86 servers."

Adding a touch of wishful thinking, Gelsinger projected that virtualisation some day could enable the long awaited death of the mainframe computer by allowing mainframe applications to be run virtually.

Gelsinger wrote a paper about 20 years ago in which he predicted the demise of the mainframe.

Mainframes are considered to be far more expensive than x86 servers, but have a reputation of being extremely stable. Firms therefore shy away from replacing them.

Intel's Itanium chips were designed to replace mainframe architectures but have failed to make a dent in its competitor's market shares.

Even though the general trend favours distributed computing models that use many x86 servers linked together, demand for mainframes has remained stable.

"Not all workloads lend themselves well to a distributed memory architecture [such as offered by x86 server farms]," Haff pointed out.

"And there are certain advantages from a management and resource allocation perspective to having everything in one box."
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