Virtualization: A hot topic that stays cool……

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Intel's Chief Virtualization Architect Rich Uhlig to discuss the new usage models and virtualization technologies in Intel new Xeon 5500 series platform. Rich and I have been friends and colleagues for several years and the video of our discussion is attached and can be viewed on Youtube. The conversation sparked some interesting questions from my colleagues, friends and children which I thought I would share with a wider audience.

First the questions from my son's (I have three boys...yes this means that my wife has the patience of a saint):
Dad, what is virtualization? Does that mean you can take people and computers and teleport them to new places, like Star Trek? Did Intel invent virtualization? Why do you think it is so cool? When I grow up, can I be virtualized?

My Answer:
Slow down.....slow down...let me try to answer the questions one at a time.

Virtualization is the ability to increase computer, network and storage utilization with multiple operating systems or logical machines, called virtual machines. This allows Dad and his friends to use more of their computers with different applications and devices. Using virtualization allows Dad and his friends to save money, save power and increase efficiency.

Response (My three son's in unison):
Boring! I thought you said your job is cool. Your such a geek......(trailing off and looking at their iPods)

My response:
Guys, hold on...let me explain. Virtualization technology IS cool. While it wasn't invented by Intel, we have worked with an industry of incredibly gifted engineers, architects and designers to create new ways for people to use their computer technology....and the best part is we are only in the beginning. By the time you are an adult you will have the opportunity to use virtualization technology in ways we are only beginning to imagine. Think of virtualization as a journey and evolution of computer technology for Dad and his friends to maximize the use of the computers that we buy/build. Hopefully, with more innovation and computer technology advances you will be able to create a virtualization layer that will allow you and your digital identity to "teleport" to new places in a virtual cloud. You won't be "virtualized" but you will be able to create your digital environment wherever there is a machine that can understand your commands. That is pretty cool. Think of it this way, you can save and play your Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation or XBox profiles on any machine, any where in the world that can download your profile.

Response (from my 13 year old):
You mean I can play EA's Madden Football 24 hours a day with my friends, even when we are on vacation and you want me to see some historic landmark, like the Lincoln Memorial?

My response:
Well...yes but not exactly what I had in mind. (aargh!)

A recent question from my friend from a former job on Virtualization:
I hear the new Intel chip, Nehalem (formerly known as the Intel Xeon 5500 series), is the best product you guys have released in a long time, What makes the product so good, is it the virtualization technology that you work on?

My response:
Virtualization technology provides increased instrumentation and flexibility for the Intel Xeon 5500 series platform but it is only one a host of fantastic features which make this product the best we have ever released. For Data Center managers, increased efficiency is an every day part of life. Nehalem offers increased performance, increase memory capacity, a new Quick Path Interconnect (which acts like a NUMA switch fabric on silicon, remember that cool product we launched in 1997 at Sequent Computers?) and a 2nd generation of virtualization capabilities that deliver native virtualization instruction capabilities for VMWare, Microsoft, Citrix and a host of Xen providers. It is a truly a breakthrough server product. With this new architecture and design characteristics we are able to meet the needs of a platform of new Virtualization usage models including: Rapid Application Deployment, High Availability, Virtual Desktop Infrastructures and Server Consolidation. It is a very exciting time...

My friend's response:
Very cool. I miss working on hardware innovations...sounds like you guys at Intel are up to something special. Should I buy the stock?

My response:
Thanks. Intel is a great place to work and we are doing some very cool product innovations. Do we always have to talk about stock price?

Finally, a recent question from a dear colleague:
What happens if virtualization technology is deployed on every platform that Intel ships? Won't business and consumers need less devices? Won't users no longer have an insatiable demand for compute, network and storage resources?

My Answer:
Funny you should ask that question. Rich Uhlig, Fernando Martins, Rick Olha, RK and I have debated this exact question for years. The answer is simple. Virtualization increases demand for more resources than ever before. In fact, until the recent economic downturn virtualization technology was cited by a Citigroup analyst as the key driver to Server growth in 2H 2007. For the first time in over 10 years the markets average selling price was increasing. Why? Because users could do more with every server they purchased. Virtualization actually facilitiates more usages on more application development and production environments than ever before. As we increase the performance of the instruction sets and Intel Microarchitectures we increase the capabilities that virtualization can impact for new usage models, while preserving some the legacy compatibility that users require for 32-bit application workloads. Simply stated, "we can do more with less!"

Next question (by the way this was a skeptical Intel exec.):
Doing more with less is fine...but what about our volumes for server products? what happens when virtualization is prevalent across all of Intel CPU and Platform offerings?

My response:
Flexibility and control are critical to all of our customers regardless of form factor. Is there anything worse then buying a new server, PC or handheld and having application compatibility errors? No. Do we really believe the world wants to become software compatibility specialists everytime Microsoft releases a new operating system? What about Dell, HP, Lenovo, IBM, Acer, Nokia, Motorola, LG, Samsung, RIM and HTC? It has taken us over 10 years of research, testing and product development to get here. Virtualization is a "Hot Topic" today and will be in the future because it makes a positive difference in our customers lives both financially and efficiently. Our job is deliver the greatest silicon products the world has ever seen, over and over and over again. Virtualization allows us to do that AND preserve the investments our customers and software partners make in developing their own operating environments. What is cooler than that? Virtualization facilitates innovation, consumption and utilization, our customers are telling us this everyday. Innovation is critical to this process, enabling our software colleagues is a must and opening up the discussion is part of the process.

Her response:
Well, I guess you are pretty passionate about virtualization?

My response:

I hope so...that is why you hired me.

Have a listen, enjoy the video and join the discussion of Rich and I. For us, Virtualization is a very Hot topic, that we have thought is Cool for a very long time.