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Torvalds Misses the Virtualization Boat

Linus Torvalds doesn't think virtualization is a transformational technology. I'm a big Torvalds fan in general, but in this case, the founder of the Linux OS is simply dead wrong. Here's what he said in an interview with the Linux Foundation:

"Jim Zemlin: Virtualization. Game-changer? Not that big of a deal?

Linus Torvalds: Not that big of a deal.

Jim Zemlin: Why do you say that?

Linus Torvalds: It's been around for probably 50 years. I forget when IBM started offering virtualization on their big hardware. Maybe not 50 years, but it's been all around for decades and it's very interesting in niche markets - I think the people who expected to change things radically are just fooling themselves.

I'd say that the real change comes from new uses, completely new uses of computers and that might just happen because computers get pushed down and become cheaper and that might change the whole picture of operating systems.

But also, I'd actually expect that new form factor is in new input and output devices. If we actually end up getting projection displays on cell phones, that might actually change how people start thinking of hardware and that, in turn, might change how we interact and how we use operating systems. But virtualization will not be it."

I don't know if he's just ignorant of the virtualization market, but his comments couldn't be further off the mark. It's my strong belief that virtualization will change everything, and soon. We're breaking away from the old way of thinking about software and hardware, and that they have to be married in a certain way. I've talked to admins whose entire thought processes changed once his environment moved to VMware ESX Server (in fact, I wrote a case study story about one for an early issue of the forthcoming magazine.) And I'll be working on a video story for this website for later this month about how a device from NComputing can allow multiple users (in this case, Baltimore schoolchildren) to share the resources of one ordinary desktop computer.

That kind of innovation is starting to take hold in the industry. It's incredibly exciting, and Torvalds doesn't see it. Ironic that a visionary as highly regarded as he (with good reason) is so narrow when it comes to virtualization.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/08/2008 at 12:48 PM


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