January 2006


I’ve realised I’ve mentioned the idea of the hypervisor wars without explaining what I mean by it.

The underlying virtualisation technologies used in Intel’s VT and AMD’s Pacifica curently only allow a single VM Manager to run. This means that the VMM (the hypervisor) installed has an incredible amount of power – it controls what runs and how it runs. Install yours first, and the machine is yours – especially if you lock your hypervisor into TPM or similar security mechanisms.

So what would the hypervisor wars mean? Firstly an end to the open systems model that’s been at the heart of enterprise IT for the last 25 years.

If Microsoft and VMware fell out, VMware could reduce the priority of Windows partitions. Other hypervisors might have licensing conditions that make it impossible to run non-free OSes as clients.

You could end up with a situation where each OS installation would attempt to insinuate its own hypervisor onto the system partition. Security partition developers may find that they are only able to code for one set of hypervisor APIs – locking end users into a closed platform.

The end state?

Co-opetition breaks down, the industry becomes enclaves built around hypervisor impementations, and the end user finds that they’re unable to benefit from the possibilities of an open hypervisor architecture.

Can we avoid the hypervisor wars? Optimistically I think we can. There are pre-requisites. We need an agreed hypervisor integration architecture, and we need it quickly. Let VMM developers compete on ease of operation and management, not on who controls your PC.

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One thing to note about the new Apple Intel machines is that the Yonah chipset supports VT.

With Apple saying that they’ll let Windows run on their hardware, the question is – will they let a third-party hypervisor run? I suspect not – especially if they are using TPM in secure startup mode. Of course, they’ll first need to enable VT in whatever BIOS they’re using…

So will Apple produce its own hypervisor, or will it badge a third-party tool? My personal suspicion is that Apple doesn’t have the skills to write it’s own hypervisor (there are only a limited number of people with the deep combination of hardware internals and OS knowledge required, and they’re mainly at Microsoft and VMware) that they’ll announce a partnership with VMware at the WWDC. Unless Apple’s been hiring the Xen dev team on the sly…

Apple will quickly need to gain the high ground in managing virtualisation on their platform – as they’ll need to maintain contol of OS X running as a VM. Otherwise, will Apple be the first casualty of the hypervisor wars?

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Adobe’s new Lightroom is, as they say, the bee’s knees.

Fast, responsive and ideal for working with RAW images, it takes the best of CameraRAW and Adobe Bridge and turns them into a one stop shop for basic image manipulation and comparison. Best thought of as a digital lightbox, its adaptive UI makes it easy to hide the elements you don’t need and just concentrate on the images. An image workflow tool, it helps you manage how you work with images – and how you capture them.

Lightroom Beta lets you view, zoom in, and compare photographs quickly and easily. Precise, photography-specific adjustments allow you to fine tune your images while maintaining the highest level of image quality from capture through output. And best of all, it runs on most commonly used computers, even notebook computers used on location. Initially available as a beta for Macintosh, Lightroom will later support both the Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Which means it runs quite happily on my aging G4 PowerBook (unlike the G5 optimised Aperture)

That’s not say that Lightroom is competition for Aperture.

This is more a first look at how Adobe is rethinking what people are doing with the Photoshop toolset, and putting together the beginnings of a script-controlled service framework for its next generation of imaging applications. It’s a model that fits in nicely with a conversation I had recently with Adobe’s CEO Bruce Chizen (which should be in the next issue of PC Plus), where we talked about Adobe’s strategic direction after the Macromedia acquisition. I’ll leave the conversation to the article – but one thing, I think Adobe are one of the companies that bear watching over the next 3 to 5 years.

(I’m glad I can talk about it now – I saw it in December, and was very impressed at the time – unfortunately I’d had to sign an NDA.)

Betanews notes that there won’t be a Windows version until Vista hits the market. I’m not surprised. I strongly suspect that Microsoft is working with Adobe to make Lightroom one of the apps that will be demoed at the Vista launch. The UI of the version that Adobe demoed back in December would work very well on WinFX – it’s ideal for XAML. Microsoft has had Adobe on stage showing proof-of-concept XAML applications in the past, so having it showing shipping code at the launch would make a lot of sense…

Cross posted to Technology, Books and Other Neat Stuff

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Here’s a useful post from the always interesting Scott Hanselman, linking to hints and tips on how to use VMs more effectively.

There’s a number of generally recommended tips if you’re running a VM, either in VMWare or VirtualPC, the most important one being: run it on a hard drive spindle that is different than your system disk .

It’s good advice. I’ll be moving my set of VMs to a seperate SATA drive on my main PC. However, sticking them in a fast USB 2.0 drive looks to be a sensible approach as well.

An interesting thought occurs – will we see hardware designed for hypervisors and hardware virtualisation coming with many hard disks? Or will we see a caching layer used, passing operating systems into partitioned cache RAM?

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