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Virtualization Outside The x86 Box

VMware seized the lead in virtualization by generating software that mimics the x86 instruction set, the internal instructions that operate Intel and AMD chips. But there are virtualization advocates who say much could be gained by virtualizing assets outside the x86 base.

One company, Transitive, virtualizes the instruction sets of many chips, including IBM's Power and Sun's UltraSparc. Transitive's QuickTransit virtualization software lets operating systems and their applications run on hardware for which they were never intended. But there's no Star Trek-style universal translator: Each QuickTransit product translates from one specific operating system and chip combination to another--say, from Solaris/Sparc to Linux/Intel Xeon, or vice versa.

InformationWeek Reports

Transitive CEO Bob Wiederhold says that, for several years, QuickTransit has translated Adobe Acrobat running under Windows into instructions meant not for the Intel x86 instruction set as Adobe originally intended, but for older Apple Macintoshes. Until recently, Macs ran on the IBM Power chip and used its instruction set. QuickTransit did the translation from Power to x86 effectively enough that most Macintosh users didn't realize they were running an alien, virtualized chip architecture.

Now, with new Macs running Intel processors, the need is reversed. "We're behind the new Intel-based Macintoshes running applications that were designed for Power-based Macintoshes," he notes.

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