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VMware Stirs Virtual Controversy

VMware's goals to improve the performance of virtualized environments is drawing hoots and catcalls from at least one competitor -- and raising some knotty questions for users and developers.

VMware today made generally available the latest release of its VMware Workstation software, highlighted by the addition of a paravirtualization interface called paravirt-ops. (See VMware Unveils Workstation 6.) The software has been undergoing widespread beta testing and can now be purchased for about $189 per workstation.

Paravirtualization is a software technique developed by XenSource and implemented so far by Novell, Red Hat, and other open-source Linux OS providers. It's designed to improve the performance of virtual environments by recompiling parts of the guest operating system to create shortcuts that eliminate otherwise complex translations between OS and underlying hardware. (See Insider Eyes Virtual Desktops.)

Paravirt-ops is an interface VMware claims enables "transparent paravirtualization" by streamlining virtualization processes specifically for the Linux kernel. XenSource, VMware, IBM, and RedHat got paravirt-ops included in the latest release of the Linux kernel, version 2.6.20, which is only just starting to become available for developers.

So far, VMware is the first of the paravirt-ops proponents to offer support for the interface in a commercial product, though XenSource is said to be close to providing one, too.

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