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Intel Experiments With Desktops

David Utter
Expert Author
Published: 2005-05-05

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Their funded virtual desktop project at Cambridge University has become a Silicon Valley startup, and Intel is tweaking its chips to take advantage of their work.

The company called XenSource started as a project in England, funded by the chipmaker. It was called Xen and it would facilitate operating system virtualization.

The Xen code creates a software layer, called a hypervisor, in a computer. An operating system that normally "talks" to hardware would talk to Xen instead.

This layer of abstraction allows users to install multiple operating systems on a single server, with each OS image residing instead on a networked storage device.

Intel has started optimizing its chips to run the Xen hypervisor. These tweaks now allows Xen to support all operating systems, including pre-2.4 Linux and Windows. According to Simon Crosby, XenSource VP of Marketing, Sun has begun work on a Solaris x86 port to Xen.

To clarify, an operating system can be "ported" to work optimally with Xen; doing so means having access to the souce code. For a proprietary system like Windows, Xen can support it without modification.

For companies who want to run several instances of Linux without investing in an IBM xSeries, or even VMware for that matter, Xen may have some appeal.

For true Unix hackers, NetBSD and FreeBSD ports are available. As for Windows XP, a port was completed for it, but licensing restrictions have forced it to be unavailable.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

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