OS Agnosticism Through Virtualization

21 07 2007

Today, Xen was merged into the the mainline Linux kernel.

A couple days ago, another source drop occurred for the Solaris Xen support, which it seems will relatively soon be integrated into mainline OpenSolaris (this is my assumption, I have no knowledge about any particular plans behind this).

This has me asking myself a question given that I now have the ability to run Solaris on Linux, or Linux on Solaris (whether through Xen or an LX branded zone) at native or nearly-native speeds. If this trend continues, will it really matter forever what OS you run on your desktop, or what platform you develop your software for? Mac OS X and Windows are not yet fully cooperating with Xen (I’m not aware of any OS X efforts for this at all). But I suspect that eventually they will. For desktop users and developers – servers, or machines which are part of a mass-deployment may remain true to a single OS per box. Servers need (when they’re busy) every bit of speed they can get, and need to use as little power as they can. But desktop applications can usually take a slight speed hit without issue. And Xen is a pretty small performance hit. This of course assumes you aren’t running a new Windows computer loaded with crapware – I still can’t figure out how to get all of that off my mom’s HP.

And for those of you nay-sayers talking about games not running well virtualized, or virtualized platforms not getting the hardware access they need for games, check this out. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Edit: I originally forgot that Xen has support for HVM on newer chips, not just paravirtualized guests. This makes me pretty excited. Now if I could just get OS X to run as a domU, I run out and buy that Macbook I’ve been eying as soon as possible…