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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
Today VMware announced the client hypervisor they are producing and a collaboration with Intel on the hardware support (VT) and management (vPro), Citrix made a similar announcement last month (some analysis from the trusty Brian Madden here).
If the client side device is now running a hypervisor this would presumably extend the same encapsulation principles from datacentre/server virtualization to the desktop; where more than one OS instance could run on a client; for example a Linux and a Windows VM side by side, sharing data or isolated for security/compliance reasons – network traffic securely routed or encapsulated to keep it separate.
With most PC hardware that’s probably still a lot of computing horsepower around the estate that is underused or idle while the user goes to lunch, or doing lightweight tasks.
Grid based applications are much discussed in the banking/geophysical world as they need to crunch vast amounts of data and are well suited to horizontal scaling. On an Internet scale, there are distributed grids like SETI or Folding@Home – crunching towards a common goal.
What if you have a centralised server than can stream down virtual appliances that run such applications and thus distributed services – isolated from the user through the hypervisor, resource controlled so that they process in the background or when the CPU is idle or by a central “resource policy”.
What if you could then sell this compute capacity back to a “grid” provider – which federates and dispatches grid jobs;
of course, you can technically do this now because multi-tasking has been standard on most desktop operating systems since the late 80’s but security has always been a concern, what if that “grid” application contains malicious code or a bug which can leak data from your machine or the corporate network – this problem hasn’t really been solved to-date, Java etc. provide sandboxes but they depend on a lot of components from the core OS stack and don’t address network isolation.
Now you have an option to provide a high level of instance and network isolation between business systems and grid/public applications by using a client hypervisor – much in the same way that VMware ESX is the foundation for a multi-tenant cloud through vSwitches & Private VLANs etc.
Take that idea to the next level, what if you could distribute your server workload around your desktop estate rather than maintain a large central compute facility?
High-availability through something like VMware FT and DRS/HA make features of the underlying hardware like RAID, redundant power supplies less of a focus point, arguably you are providing high availability at the hypervisor/software level rather than big-iron.
You could also do something like provide a peer to peer file system leveraging local storage on the device to provide local LAN access to files from caches – the hypervisor isolates the virtual appliance from the end-user to divide administrative access to systems and services.
There is a lot of capacity in this “desktop cloud”… and maybe some smart ways to use it, conventional IT thinking says this is a bit wacky but I definitely think there is something in it….thoughts?