Why Apple and Intel Virtualization Technology will kick ass

Quoting from Advogato:

So, a while back (August 2003), I wrote in my diary about a paradigm for system innovation that I wanted here. Then in October 2003, Intel announced its codename vanderpool project which got me excited to see it going in at the hardware level, which is where it should be IMNSHO, here.

Well, it’s two years later, and Intel (and AMD’s) “VT” virtualization technologies will be upon us in Q1/Q2 of 2006. I am so stoked, but it’s the Apple + Intel pairing that gets me really excited, here’s why:

First off I guess I should rewind for those who didn’t read my old articles… and explain what “VT” is. VT is basically the current public name for Intel’s Vanderpool and AMD’s Pacifica technologies. It’s a hardware level virtualization layer for x86/AMD64/emt64 processors. In essence this is like VMWare or VPC at the hardware level. Used in conjunction with Xen or VMware as a hypervisor most likely, you will be able to run several OS’s straight from hardware simultaneously.

Now, to be fair, Xen & VMWare ESX server have offered this level of functionality for a while. But not without problems, Xen requires that you port your OS to Xen basically. Fine for Linux, but what about Windows? Forget it. What’s worse is that Xen has been evolving essentially requiring reports, so even smaller projects (e.g. OpenBSD) with limited developers have been avoiding the porting effort because it has been a moving target. Meanwhile VMware seems to work well, but it costs a LOT (well VMWare is getting aggressive on developer pricing with a $300/year cart blanche license for all their products per developer but for non-production use), and moreover has strict hardware requirements so you can’t just run it on any old PC, but have to make sure that it’s something they support.

So that’s great and all, but what’s the big deal? Why am I so excited about this when it sounds like something that’s been out there for a while?

Well, it hasn’t. This is something new. And tying it all together with Apple is going to make jaws drop I suspect. Why?

Apple is like a Japanese zaibatsu (er… keiretsu in more recent terminology) they control from the bottom to the top more or less, single face. This means that their hardware will be homogenous, thus no worries with the nagging ESX drawbacks about specific hardware choice. Apple is also well branded. OSX is also awesome, and only available on Apples (legally). Everyone has been clamoring about the move to Intel… why? G5’s are still quite fast (especially with dual core dual cpu Powermacs out). So maybe the p4 devkits are fast, but they’re power pigs. What’s so cool about that? Oh some reports about dual booting Windows & OSX are kinda cool, but dual boot? What a drag!

With VT (which is in Intel’s Yonah cpu’s which will be due out in time for the first round of Intel based Apple’s) forget dual boot. You will be able to run OSX & Windows (or linux or whatever) in parallel simultaneously on the same machine. This is huge! This means that your next PC purchase can be an Apple, so you can use the stupid tools work MAKES you use, but you can use OSX for everything you want to use, so you can get shit DONE. This is a much cooler demo than Xen running Linux & plan9 running together, because really – who cares about those if you’re a consumer?

But consumers know Mac, consumers know Windows. Consumers will see them both running together and start to think “Can I do that with my Dell?” The answer will be NO (not legally ;), but buy an Apple and you’re good to go.

There’s more (about why Intel & Apple and not Apple & AMD) and stuff, but I’m not going to go into Intel vs MS & Dell politics right now – that’s another interesting story, but nothing will be as interesting as the upcoming intel based Apples which should be MUCH MUCH cooler than many people seem to be aware of.

I’ll leave you with this though… Yonah will be dual core, it will have VT and it will also have SMT (Intel calls this Hyperthreading). In effect this will mean that one single chip will have dual core and dual threads per core so instead of 1:1 chip:thread ratio it will be 1:4. You should be able to run OSX & WIndows and maybe even something else with probably no performance hit, the hdd and RAM will probably be the bottlenecks if anything (hdd most likely). People may whine about yonah not being emt64 – but VT is much much bigger than 64bit from a usefulness standpoint. Merom due out shortly afterwards will solve that issue anyway.

I’ve been wanting something like this for years, first wrote about it publically a couple years ago, and now in less than a year it should be a consumer priced product I am so stoked, I think I’ll even buy a revA powerbook that has intel+vt!