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Dell likes Linux for virtualization

At LinuxWorld the Dell CTO says the two will make running multiple operating systems on a single computer easier.

SAN FRANCISCO--Linux is the key that will make virtual machines easier to build, according to Kevin Kettler, Dell's chief technical officer.

He spoke to an audience gathered for the LinuxWorld conference here at Moscone Center, addressing the growth of the open-source Linux operating system--which he said he hoped would hit $1 billion in licensing revenue by 2011--and what it means for both enterprise data centers, business computing and consumer applications.

Despite its recent growth, Linux is lagging in terms of the worldwide combined paid server operating system environments by Microsoft and others. Combining the use of Linux with virtualization is not such an odd pairing, rather, the two "play to one another very strongly," he said, particularly when it comes to the re-emerging trend of virtualization.

"To encourage use of Linux for virtual environments is to make an easier way to do virtual machines," he said.

Virtualization is when one computer runs several operating systems, or virtual machines. Dell said it would be embracing the virtualization trend again earlier this year.

Pairing Linux and virtualization to manage and consolidate enterprise data centers is something Dell is using back at home base. Three thousand of Dell's own servers run Linux, including its so-called mission-critical applications, such as the company's internal employee, supply chain and financial-management systems, Kettler said.

For business clients, the progress from last year's LinuxWorld has been remarkable, he said. Many of the CIOs he meets have concerns over security breaches from attacks on machines or a virus downloaded to a machine on their network, he said, and separate, virtual machines can limit the damage.

"What if you created a virtual machine that is an isolated Web-browsing machine?" Kettler asked. "If a machine is dedicated to Web browsing, and you've downloaded something you shouldn't have, you can kill this machine and restart it" separate from the other machines without also killing the rest of a user's work.

Having that capability on a desktop is "not far off," Kettler said.

For consumers, there are plenty of practical applications for virtual machines at home: on a single computer, consumers could have virtual machines dedicated to gaming, a media server, Web browsing and productivity, which is "a real opportunity" now and in the future for the Linux community to show its creativity, he said.