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8/8/2007
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Dell: Virtualization Is Key To Driving Linux On The Desktop

Better virtualization technology will increase the use of Linux on business and consumer desktops, and Dell called on the open source community to help develop the necessary software.

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Dell believes that better virtualization technology is key to increasing the use of Linux on business and consumer desktops, and called on the open source community to help develop the necessary software.

During his keynote Tuesday at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, Kevin Kettler, chief technology officer for Dell, gave the company's "vision" of how to drive Linux adoption on the desktop, an area in which the open source operating system has failed to make a dent against Microsoft's Windows monopoly.

To Dell, it's all about giving corporations and consumers everything they want on one PC, whether its Windows, Linux, or both. Virtualization software can provide choice by enabling the creation of multiple virtual machines to run either operating system.

Dell's view is similar to Apple, which offers software for installing and running Windows on the Mac. The idea behind Apple's Boot Camp is to remove the barrier of not being able to access your favorite Windows applications on the Mac. Apple sold more Macs in its fiscal third quarter, which ended June 30, than ever before. The company shipped 1.76 million units, a 33% increase over a year ago.

In order to realize the full potential of virtualization on a PC, the technology must first be very easy to use, Kettler said. In Dell labs, researchers are working on embedding the hypervisor, a system program that provides a virtual machine environment, in a flash drive in a computer server. The architecture offers higher performing virtual machines for running multiple OSes. "The overall benefit is time to boot -- ready to go -- and the management of these servers as well -- very critical," Kettler said.

Moving to the business and consumer client, Kettler demonstrated running multiple operating environments using a Dell OptiPlex 745 powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Pricing for the business machine starts at $572 on Dell's Web site.

Using the XenSource hypervisor to create the necessary virtual machines, Kettler ran Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, which was running the legacy project management software Microsoft Project 95. In addition, Kettler simultaneously ran a Mozilla Firefox Web browser on its own VM, in case a business for security reasons wanted to isolate accessing the Internet. Also running on a separate VM was a computer-assisted design program.

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