We've been talking about client hypervisors quite a bit recently. As one of the four pillars of my "Desktop 2010" vision and a key part of my new "Desktop 2015" vision, client hypervisors can't get here fast enough as far as I'm concerned. Companies like Neocleus and Virtual Computer have made early strides in this space, but most people seem to be waiting until Citrix and VMware each release their Type 1 bare-metal client hypervisors. (Both companies announced client hypervisors in 2008/2009 and initially promised them last year, and now it looks like neither Citrix nor VMware will ship a client hypervisor before the end of 2010.)
When Gabe and I did our "Geek Week: VDI Challenge" a few months ago, one of the vendors chosen was Virtual Bridges. Their CTO Leo Reiter bragged that their VERDE product included a client hypervisor, we reacted with confusion as to how we had missed this?!? But then we come to find out that their "client hypervisor" was a locked-down Linux build with KVM running their normal desktop VM.
"This is not a real client hypervisor," we thought. #FAIL. Move on.
But wait... what exactly is bad about this approach? KVM is part of the Linux kernel. Linux runs on everything. So while Citrix and VMware are struggling to create hypervisors that only work with a very small set of vPro-enabled client devices, a KVM-based VM can probably run on just about anything. Combine that with some startup stuff to hide the client, and who needs a "real" bare-metal Type 1 client hypervisor?
Other advantages (in random order off the top of my head):
- Anything that can run Linux can run the client VM (wait and see how big the HCLs are for Citrix and VMware)
- Full hardware support (GPUs, etc.)
- KVM is built-in to Linux
- This is real today (and has been for some time)
- This is available from multiple vendors
- You can run the free VMware Player for Linux or VirtualBox.
- Linux can be locked down and managed centrally (The patching/managment to your Linux host probably isn't any more different/difficult than the patching/management of your "real" bare-metal hypervisor
- The "Linux-ness" of the client can be hidden
- This is no more "Linux-y" than ESX
- Vendors / consultants could wrap this up into a slick package like what we think Citrix XenClient / VMware View Native Mode will be
And what about the advantages of getting a "real" client hypervisor from Citrix or VMware? Well... I guess we'll know if/when they come out!