Virtualization Makes Traditional Operating Systems Obsolete

When function surpasses form, the operating system drops out of the equation.

Will we ever move away from the traditional concepts and definitions of disk, memory, network and CPU for operating systems? We should move, instead, toward the concept of workloads. Every computing service is a workload—a new mail server becomes a new mail service workload, a new database server becomes a new data storage and retrieval workload and a new virtual desktop becomes a new virtual user interface workload. What we need is a simple workload container pseudo-operating system that makes traditional operating systems (OSs) obsolete.

Last week, I challenged virtualization software vendors and operating system developers to cooperate with one another and to create operating system versions that ship hypervisor-optimized and ready to run as virtual machines. Since I have no fear of this actually happening, I’m embracing the idea that what’s really needed are workload containers in which we’ll run our applications and services—with no operating system to hinder or complicate matters.

Why would you need a traditional OS to run a java application, a mail service, a database or any workload? Since most users access services over the network and never see the host OS, why should it exist? And, why would any of those workloads require either Linux or Windows? VMware proved that an OS isn’t necessary for a hypervisor host with their ESXi product, so OS-less guests aren’t a big stretch from there.

And I’m not talking about using some lame marketing ploy by simply renaming everything to make it sound more virtual but actually changing the way those services function to fit into these workload containers.

Can you envision a time when you’ll deploy a new workload to a set of users or on the web with a simple selection from a web-based pick list of services? It’s possible if you take away operating system specificity. Do users care about the operating system on which they’re working or where their files are stored? In most cases, they probably do not. Finally, function emerges as more important than form, thereby ushering in an age where vendor and platform specificity disappear into oblivion.

Deploying any workload becomes an act of “lever pulling” by a first or second level support jock who responds to routine ticket requests after all of the provisioning and change control matters are resolved by other individuals.

For example, a newly formed group of users requires a new file server with shared storage space. You could engage a System Administrator to install an OS onto a physical machine, configure the file shares, setup the users and send out an email with an explanation of the new service and instructions on how to access it. You could engage a System Administrator to deploy a new virtual machine and perform the same steps that you would for a physical machine. Or, you could engage that first or second level support person to select “New User Storage Service” from a pick list, allocate the required amount of storage space and identify the group who’ll have access and, presto; a new user file storage workload is born.

Virtual Desktops no longer exist (not that they ever did) but have morphed into what I call Virtual User Interfaces (VUI). The VUI is really just a list of virtual applications to which a user subscribes and accesses by virtue of his identity. A user whose job only requires the use of email, a web browser, a word processor and an occasional spreadsheet doesn’t need a fully licensed commercial OS.

Could it be this simple if we remove the OS factor? Yes, it could be.

Workloads will replace operating systems as virtualization and cloud computing pervades our data centers and our lives. Traditional operating systems are passé, heavy, cumbersome and are ready for museums and trivia games. Workloads are the future. Workloads are how computing is done. Workloads make traditional operating systems obsolete. Virtualization makes it possible.

Comments on "Virtualization Makes Traditional Operating Systems Obsolete"


\”And I’m not talking about using some lame marketing ploy by simply renaming everything to make it sound more virtual but actually changing the way those services function to fit into these workload containers.\”

What does this mean? You\’re spouting non-sense about removing traditional OS\’s. What piece of software will provide the traditional OS services required by all of these \”virtual services\”? *SOME* OS is required underneath it all? If it\’s not a traditional OS, then it will be a new OS, that will in time become YATOS (Yet Another Traditional OS).

Please explain how you will do away with operating systems, and still provide the services those systems provide today.


How does VMware not use an OS with ESXi? We assume that we\’d need an OS because we\’ve been conditioned to think that way. I think there\’s a better way and it isn\’t just using a marketing ploy to do it.


ESXi is an OS, it is a cut down Linux like OS.


I think what he is talking about is that all the regular joe user needs is access to the net/cloud and everything is provisioned there. Hence do we need Win / Linux / etc. to do that, maybe its enough to just get the network connection and browser up, forget the rest. Of course there shall still be need for OS\’s to do the heavy lifting in the back-end, but will they be needed in the front, e.g. hotel reservations desk apps, could all be done by Browser, increasing security by limiting what the equipment can do. You might already see part of this occurring with WebOS, where the services it provides is of importance, not really what it is resting on.


CPU and memory management, file management, some type of interface/API, network interface management, these are things that would be needed by your so called services to work in a \”workload container\”. Isn\’t that the definition of an OS? http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/429897/operating-system If what you mean is that they will be streamlined, slim OSes to host the service then sure, that\’s what ESXi is. Since ESXi does all the things mentioned at the beginning of my comment then it\’s by definition an OS.

If on the other hand you are talking about some type of \”black box\” service that basically runs on an specific hardware with its own OS that does only what that service needs it to do then sure I could see where that could try to become a trend but it all depends on the same things as OS and virtual machines combos: budget, resources, manageability, etc.


I think that the basis of an OS is to provide a layer between the hardware and the program. Remember the days of VESA drivers?

If we establish a VM with a fixed interface then one can start programming to the VM (hardware layer) directly. This gets us passed the need for a \”Traditional\” OS.

There is are problems here, though. Who is in control of the VM? Not all VMs are equal. And we don\’t want to become slaves to Software providers. And certainly the developer is not going to have a VM for every piece of hardware that is developed.

Many Linux users create special tools to perform their work. Many times these tools can be used by others. And then they can be expanded to become the next \”great\” thing.

So, I can see here a need for an OS workload.


One (just one) of the reason virtualising is that it allows us to run many apps simultaneously on a single piece of hardware without the hassle of trying to get them all to work side by side in one OS instance; i.e. circumventing the fagility of contemporary OS and app combinations.

This means we have 2 layers of OS, the hypervisor and the guest, which can only degrade the native performance available to app.

However, if we (the IT community, open and closed source) were to properly get our act together we would create a robust mainstream OS that will handle app co-existance without running into dependancy problems and unexpected resource contention issues.

Surely we DO NOT want to be forever hamstrung by the performance and feature limitations of the instruction masking of any VM platform. Surely we DO want to be able to take advantage of new hardware as soon as it is released, without having to wait for a hypervisor upgrade, or be beholden to a company that slows to a crawl in a financial crisis?

Paul Fretter


Death to windows via virtualization!!


let face it , unless an application can manage all the hardware resources of the hardware it runs on, you will need some kind of software service like an OS to take care of that work.


Scheduling these workloads and making them perform well, that is the job of the OS.

Virtualization is the partitioning of the machine & it\’s resources, it\’s not efficient computing. It\’s really not needed to achieve the computing world discussed in this article. A simple utility application can provide partitioned data results, (output), without the need of virtulization or VM (virtual machines).

This article is right on, especially the VUI discussion. WINDOWS was a GUI based OS, but a poor performing scheduling and multi-tasking OS.

This article describes what the future could look like and will look like. But performance will play a factor, and Virtualization does not provide improved performance. In fact it slows down performance.

A new platform (OS) is being developed by many, a parallel processing software based platform, that will provide performance gains. This OS will provide the performance and the underbelly power & scheduling needs of an OS, and it will lead us forward.

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