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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