IBM throws weight behind multi-OS push

"Hypervisor" software lets computers juggle more tasks at once--and could boost a potential open-source rival, has learned.

IBM has quietly added a new option to the suddenly vogue market for "hypervisor" software that lets a computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously, CNET has learned.

But Big Blue's efforts aren't likely to squash a potential rival just flexing its muscles.

IBM has released source code for its Research Hypervisor, or rHype, on its Web site, letting anyone examine the approach of a company renowned for its expertise in the field. One distinguishing feature: rHype works with multiple processor varieties, including IBM's Power family, widely used x86 chips such as Intel's Xeon, and the new Cell microprocessor codeveloped by IBM, Sony and Toshiba.


What's new:
Big Blue quietly enters the noisy market for "hypervisor" software, which lets a computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously.

Bottom line:
Considering its open-source nature and IBM's actions so far, rHype is more likely to be a help than a hindrance to a competing project called Xen.

More stories on hypervisor

The project potentially competes with two commercial products--Microsoft's Virtual Server and EMC's VMware--and with the open-source Xen software that has attracted support from numerous computing heavyweights.

But given rHype's open-source nature and IBM's actions so far, rHype is more likely to be a help than a hindrance to Xen. Specifically, it could help Xen move from its current base of x86 chips to IBM's Power.

"We've spent quite some time talking to its authors," Xen founder Ian Pratt said. "Now that the rHype code is open source, it's a great starting point for a port of Xen to Power."

The rHype software may be incorporated directly into Xen because both packages are governed by the General Public License (GPL), Pratt said. And IBM isn't shying away: Its programmers have been contributing to the Xen project.

It makes sense for IBM to help Xen, said Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT Research. "It sounds like a natural point of intersection, given IBM's natural interest in open source and in virtualization," King said.

IBM is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to hypervisor software, which it has supported for decades on its mainframes and has brought to its Power-based Unix servers. But for x86 servers, IBM chose a partnership with VMware rather than bring its own technology to market.

IBM declined to comment on most details of rHype. However, Tom Bradicich, chief technology officer for IBM's Intel-based xSeries server line, said Tuesday that it's not likely IBM will turn rHype into a product.

"It's in the realm of the possible, but we don't foresee it at this time," Bradicich said.

IBM has used rHype to aid three internal projects. One is sHype, the Secure Hypervisor project to build barriers between different

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