Serenity Demonstrates a Sneak Preview of the Virtual PC
by Tony Butka
At our November 2001 meeting, Kim Cheung of Serenity Systems gave us a taste of the future, and it is interesting indeed. Fresh from Warpstock and Warpstock Europe, he had new beta software developed with InnoTek and based on virtual machine technology from
The idea behind a virtual PC is simple - create an assumed hardware platform (Intel chipset, S3 video, Intel NIC etc), and then have various operating systems run on that assumed profile. Unless I've missed something, the idea is similar to the virtual machine used by Sun for Java.
This idea is not new, of course; I can remember the PC emulator that used to run under MAC OS, so that you could use your PC software. Actually, I think that Connectix was involved in those Mac emulations. In any event, Kim's demonstration went well beyond what I've been used to. To date the real problem with all the emulators that I've seen so far is that they run horribly slow, like Wine under Linux. Well, Serenity's figured something out, because the demo was early beta and seemed to run acceptably fast. Using eComStation as the base platform, Kim brought two machines - a 1.6 Ghz AMD machine w/ 512 Mb of RAM with a 60 GB disk, and a diskless workstation with a PIII 800 192 Mb RAM and an S3 video card.
Kim showed how you use a special OS/2 installation program to allocate RAM and handle the setup for whatever operating system you want to create. On his main machine, he had installed eCS, Red Hat Linux, Windows ME, and Windows2000. That's right, four different operating systems! He then started each of the operating systems and had all four running simultaneously. And in a seriously cool move, he moved the screen cursor seamlessly across the various operating systems without a hiccup! Very very impressive. Just for a little "Ooh & Ah," he suspended each of the operating systems, powered down, and then removed the hard drive from the main machine and put it in the slower workstation. He powers up the workstation and voila! There are the same operating systems booting without a hitch!!
Even though this demo was a late Alpha/early Beta version of the Virtual PC, all of these operating systems actually ran and did not crash. Finally, Jerry Rash gave Kim a DVD cartoon to use, and he actually played it (sans sound) using the Windows ME emulation under eCS. Seriously neat. In fact, the mind boggling idea behind the Virtual PC is that you can honest to golly run operating systems on demand on your workstations, just like people now run application programs. This is a seriously warped concept, and will allow the user to switch to a virtual Windows machine (95/98/ME, NT or 2000) fool around with their MS Office application, and then save the result on their JFS volume under eComStation. Personally, what I like is the ability to use an OS/2 file system like HPFS or JFS directly and bypass all of the deliberately torturous stuff we have to go through to get MS file systems to cooperate with anything else. No more messing around with FAT32, NTFS mods, Extended Partition Types and all the things that drive me crazy when I'm doing a review of Partition Magic.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I was jazzed, and so was the membership. Of course you need to remember, you can't actually go out and buy this yet, Kim anticipates a first quarter 2002 delivery of the product which being demonstrated with some networking features being a bit further down the road. Pricing and availability to be announced from
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