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Intel AMD to optimize design for faster Virtual Machines

These developments are going to make VM a standard and default option. Very unfortunate for the OS as it becomes part of a stack but thw world's in a hurry and we can't waste time on the OS issues anymore.

"Our goal is to reduce that overhead further," said Mueting. In the long run, the chip manufacturers say, they want to make the difference between physical and virtual server operation negligible.

The original x86 instruction set that is used by both Intel and AMD chips had no way of recognizing a virtual machine. But since the two firms added virtualization hooks to their chips last year, known as AMD's Pacifica and Intel's Virtual Technology, the instruction set can run a virtual machine hypervisor -- a sort of thin, guest operating system talking directly to the hardware -- much more efficiently.

In effect, instructions have been added to the x86 set, such as VRun, which tell the processor to treat a hypervisor as a privileged guest with direct access to hardware functions. Once the hypervisor, such as open source Xen or VMware's ESX Server, is talking directly to the chip, a large portion of the overhead is erased.

Intel's Poulin said future Intel motherboards for four-way servers will contain a "Flex" feature to assist in the migration of virtual machines across different servers. The ability to migrate a running virtual machine from one physical server to another is one of the strongest selling points of virtualization. VMware, SWsoft, and Hewlett-Packard offer virtualization management tools that can accomplish such a move, but migration sometimes doesn't cross boundaries between chips from the same manufacturer. In addition, no one is able to migrate from Intel to AMD-based servers or vice versa.


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