Parallels - Two Divergent Paths for Macs & Windows

More virtualization news following on the heels of Red Hat's announcement of its own virtualization technology, oVirt. We all know Parallels as that software that lets you run Windows XP or Vista on a Mac OS X desktop. Since being bought and combined with company SW Soft (maker of Virtuoso and Plesk used in hosting centers across the world), Parallels has now released a full hypervisor for the data center on Apple Xserves Intel hardware, Parallels Server for Mac (PSfM). PSfM runs Leopard Server, Windows and Linux operating systems.

Is PSfM really a big deal? For a Mac shop maybe. Honestly, I don't run into Apple Xserves, ever, so I couldn't tell you the ins-and-outs of running a data center with a bunch of Xserves in it. But, until now there hasn't been a production virtualization solution that strongly supported Leopard Server and also runs Windows and Linux. VMware Fusion supports Mac OS X desktop, though I believe their next beta may support Leopard Server.

What's interesting to me is that Macs started with virtualization on the desktop with Parallels. Windows has primarily used virtualization in the data center, with VMware, Xen, Virtual PC and Hyper-V. Now that's shifted for Apple with a virtualization solution in the data center. Still, we don't see virtualization on Windows desktops as a regular course of business, yet. I guess it's because we don't have to live in a Windows plus a second operating system on the desktop like Macs have. But virtualization on the Windows desktop is likely to happen differently than what the Mac has experienced.

I believe we'll see application virtualization be the first widely used virtualization technology on Windows desktops. If the management tasks can be simplified and not become a burden on end users, application virtualization would solve a lot of problems we see today with application incompatibilities, registry issues, etc. Imagine not installing application software anymore. That would be a treat.

Though no one from Microsoft has said so as far as I know, I believe there's a possibility some form of application virtualization will show up in Windows 7, or possibly as part of some type of Windows Live Mesh or Windows Live application offering. Application virtualization makes it much easier for Microsoft to transition on premise software into the cloud. Putting that in place with Windows 7 would give Microsoft a base from which to offer applications as on premise software, streamed, or fully in the cloud.

Hey, Windows 7 team! You listening? :)

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