More Signs of the Multiple-OS, Virtualized Future Are Appearing

by Ostatic Staff - May. 26, 2011

Everywhere you look, there are signs that virtualization--which allows companies and individual users to leverage multiple operating systems and computing environments concurrently--is headed for all computing devices. Yesterday, we took note of lightweight virtualization tools that can make their way to smartphones, tablets and many other devices. In an insightful post, ZDNet refers to this trend as "The Increasingly Irrelevant Desktop OS." The trend will eventually have a huge impact on proprietary and open source-focused platform players ranging from Apple to Google.

ZDNet notes:

"You don’t need an operating system anymore. You need applications. Think application virtualization. What’s the one barrier preventing mass Windows to Linux conversion? Applications. Everyone complains about the lack of business applications–business applications compatible to accepted standards like Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and Exchange. Linux is free. What’s more compelling than free? Compatible applications."

In a more aggressively positioned post, ZDNet also says the virtualization trend will lead to some hard decisions at Apple:

"Apple and virtualization pundits agree that Apple needs to allow virtualization of its operating system. Although, it’s likely that OS X Server is fading away after the Lion release, the desktop version has a strong future ahead of it. Its future will be guaranteed if virtualization is part of that future. Without virtualization, Apple’s OS will die."

Individuals and organizations are already running heterogenous computing environments where multiple operating systems work alongside each other through virtualization. This allows access to a much wider universe of applications, and applications are, in the end, what make a difference for users. Any commercial operating system provider who ignores the trend toward virtualization is playing with fire.

For now, there are still many organizations that concentrate on one operating sytem--typically Windows--to standardize users on, but that's because of some limitations that will go away. Virtualization will eventually be very efficient on mobile devices of all stripes, for example. Cloud computing platforms are already weaving virtualization directly into their roots.

"If I’m carrying my iPad to the mall and I get paged for a support call, I can connect to a cloud-based desktop or to a server system and fix the problem," notes ZDNet. It's the combination of the cloud and virtualization that provides the key one-two punch here. And as that punch reaches our mobile devices in addition to our servers and desktops, the old arrangement of single-OS lock-in starts to go up in smoke. 

Big tech players are rapidly waking up to this trend. Just consider the Open Virtualization Alliance, which we covered here.  It's backed by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Novell, BMC, and Eucalyptus Systems, among others. Although it focuses on KVM, it's targeted at spreading the influence of open virtualization-driven stacks that can defy the hegemony of any given operating system. 

Quickly, as makers of commercial operating system continue to deliver ever more incremental functionality to their precious platforms, it's becoming clear that users will choose to outdo that incremental development by leveraging many operating systems at once.