Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Ideas to Toss: Plug’n’Play Virtualization.

Posted on: March 15, 2008

Lately there is this thought running into my head, that in most circumstances I am starting to count and make a mental note of all the “computing” devices around me. As of now, I have my mobile phone which is in arms reach, my laptop that i am working on and my server which is quietly buzzing from the corner. All of them have varying levels of computational power, starting with the server on high and ending with the mobile phone.

Virtualization is a term that started ages ago and the term has been ubiquitously been used in many things. The way virtual processing happens inside an operating system, to How a virtual software layer within an OS to run an instance of another OS – which is what VMware does, and does quite beautifully. Lately virtualization has found its new use in grid computing and in clubbing together of resources without the differentiation of physical attributes. It’s quite a steaming industry as of now, and does have some very positive implications for remote management and so on.

What I am talking about is hardware resource virtualization. I wish i could come up with a new term for it, and as the thinking deepens, I perhaps might write a longer post about it. The idea is simple. Going back to the fact that there are quite a few computational resources and some more powerful than the rest, is it possible that the resources could be shared so that “on-demand” the one that needs it could make use of it?

I know that laptops in order to consume less power have also been built with a little bit of stupider chips which dont provide as high throughput as server machines, or even desktops do. The convenience of a laptop is great, but if possible, could i link this laptop to the server so that i could make use of those extra cycles to perhaps compile the new kernel, or launch the photoshop application faster, and maybe even manage to do something in Illustrator, if required? (Illustrator as of now, hogs my machine to a standstill).

Things like this are possible, mostly cause what I am talking about is essentially cluster computing. Sharing of processes and memory space so that the one in need could use it. But I am also talking about hot-plugging this as a resource, so that i could technically walk out of the room with my laptop, or shut it down and the server would not go berserk losing a resource. Imagine, if mobile phones could have an extra shot of computing power… we wouldn’t even know what to do with it.

I am assuming that the general trend as we move on into the future would be that, computing power is going to remain pretty much the same. I think we’ve already hit a plateau and the only way we could enhance more clock cycles is if we start looking at going 3 dimensional and that is going to take a lot of power. Considering that we still haven’t come up with more efficient fuel cells yet, we do have a problem.

But imagine walking into a coffee shop and just like how you share Wifi access, you could “plug” into their server and use some computational power, and get your work done faster, wouldn’t that be amazing?

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1 Response to "Ideas to Toss: Plug’n’Play Virtualization."

The “cloud computing” aims to get you there. Mobile access might take a while since not many apps have mobile enabled themselves. For now, laptops should find it easy to optimize their efficiency with distributed computing if powered by WiFi / WiMax ubiquity. Then you run into spectrum conundrum and murky politics shrouding it.

But I am not sure service providers would like that. When management tools start running at the application layer, it can’t possibly tell a virtual machine from a real one. Hypervisers in VM environments shield OS from the hardware that renders detection of running applications almost impossible and most likely, it will misreport the amount of computing capacity consumed. Even the most diligent audit practices couldn’t capture the level of compliance / its breach, as evidenced by IBM’s withdrawal of its Tivoli License compliance Manager tool and suspension of its audit system, leaving the customers on their own – on an honor system instead. It questions the very survival of prevailing licensing practices and by extension revenue models of ISVs and App vendors.

So the burning question is, whether it is end of the line for licensing as we know it 🙂

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