Virtual Future

I see, via slashdot, that VMware are holding the Ultimate Virtual Appliance Challenge where people are invited to create an appliance that runs inside a VMware virtual machine. Interesting, particularly with the $200,000 worth of prizes they’ve put up.

I’ll take this opportunity to state here that virtual machine technology will be the next big thing in computing. Mark my words, it’ll be what people talk about more and more over the next few years.

There’s potential for a lot of good here. Worried about viruses and spyware? Do your browsing in a virtual machine and you can always nuke it if it goes bad (you can already do this with VMwares Browser Appliance and I’m sure there are others.) Sensitive documents to work on? Do it all in a VM hopefully protected from anything running inside other VMs. Any no need to dual boot to switch OSes for just one app, have as many OSes as you like.

There is another side too. Copy protected CD? Play it inside the VM and grab the digital output from the machine. Time locked software? Install it in a VM and just go back to a saved state every few days. Your particular views on the whole digital rights management issue will dictate whether you think that’s a bad thing or not.

There are many more desktop applications, good and bad, for VMs but that’s not even scraping the surface of what they can do in the server area. One of VMwares products can move a virtual machine between two physical machines while it’s running.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see people in the internet telephony business starting to look seriously at running soft switches under virtual machines for just that sort of advantage. In fact I think I’ll go off and see if I can come up with a nice telecoms appliance to enter the challenge with …

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