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Unlocking the Grid with virtualization

IBM Haifa Labs News Center

April 01, 2007

An interview with HRL researcher Benny Rochwerger, architect of the Virtualization and Systems Management Group

The Israeli Association of Grid Technologies (IGT) interviewed Benny Rochwerger, architect of the Virtualization and Systems Management group in HRL, following his talk at the recent IGT conference, "The Convergence of Grid, Virtualization, and SOA". The Hebrew original of this translation is located on the IGT's web site.

Israeli Association of Grid Technologies: Could you describe IBM's role in the area of virtualization?
Benny Rochwerger: Virtualization is a tool invented by IBM initially for mainframes. In its current form, virtualization enables the user to benefit from some of the advantages of a mainframe without losing the benefits of the client-server architecture. Our group in IBM is currently working on building a uniform management application for different systems, like VMware or Microsoft.

IGT: What do virtualization and Grid computing have to do with one another?
BR: In Grid computing, we seek to construct a virtual computing center. One way to do this is by using virtual machines. The use of virtual machines for Grid computing is a natural process that allows a greater degree of separation between various computation processes, while simplifying other issues, such as billing. We are already witnessing the initial construction of a Grid with the use of virtualization technologies. This trend will intensify as time goes on.

IGT: IBM is also a central player in the SOA world.
BR: That's true. IBM is a significant player in the SOA world. IBM made significant contributions to the development of the OGSA/WSRF standard of the Open Grid Forum and the OASIS standards organization, which enables the integration of web services and Grid applications.

IGT: Let's go back to the integration between virtualization and Grid computing. Why are they complementary technologies?
BR: Grid computing allows users to use resources they don't have locally on their own computers, and therefore it's only natural to create virtual machines for every Grid user. In this way, we can ensure that one user's applications are not adversely affected by applications being run simultaneously by another user.

IGT: If the connection between Grid and virtualization is so obvious, why isn't everyone doing it?
BR: Although these two technologies do complement one another, integrating them is challenging. Virtualization technologies don't know how to communicate with one another. Building a Grid infrastructure without requiring the infrastructure to be homogeneous is problematic. One of IBM's goals is to enable building complex virtual systems with heterogeneous infrastructure and virtualization technologies.

IGT: Despite all that, more and more companies are coming to the conclusion that they need to confront these challenges. Why?
BR: Virtualization provides organizations with two major advantages that are becoming increasingly more significant as time passes. The first advantage of virtualization is optimal use of computing resources. The second advantage is the high level of separation enabled between the various applications.

IGT: Can you explain a little more about optimal utilization?
BR: The significance of dual core (and technologies similar to it) is that you have the capacity of several computers in one machine. Most existing applications don't know how to exploit the parallelism inherent in modern systems. With virtualization, the computing power located on one physical machine is partitioned into a number of virtual machines that can be used for various needs and users. With the computing power in individual machines increasing, virtualization enables the maximum utilization of computing power without requiring changes to the operating systems or applications.

IGT: What about isolation between the various applications?
BR: In general, when you run two applications on the same operating system, they can adversely affect one another. However, when using virtualization, you can achieve total separation with each application running on a separate virtual machine, instead of running both applications on the same OS. This separation provides a huge advantage for Grid applications, because it increases the efficiency and cuts the number of problems that stem from conflicting interactions between the applications. This advantage is very significant as Grid technologies move from the academic world to commercial applications.

IGT: You mentioned a decrease in the number of problems, but virtualization can cause its own troubles: The multiplicity of layers can make it difficult to detect the source of bugs, because the management software can only monitor its own level.
BR: That's true, and that's exactly the issue solved by the IBM Virtualization Manager, an IBM product developed partially in Haifa. This is the product that was presented at the recent conference of the Israeli Association of Grid Technologies on January 24 of this year. One of our objectives in developing this tool is to show the connections between the various layers, thereby easing the detection of problems.

These are somewhat contradictory requirements. On one hand, users want to separate the virtual worlds from the physical resources, while on the other they want the capability to see and understand the links between those layers, e.g., to detect the origin of bugs. This is one of the challenges IBM is currently addressing.

IGT: Could you tell us a little about the IBM Haifa Research Lab and its role in developing the IBM Virtualization Manager?
BR: The Haifa facility is part of the IBM Research division. Researchers in IBM Haifa focus on a wide range of subjects, such as signal processing, compiler architecture, and more. My group works on systems management, and in the last year I served as one of the architects developing the IBM Virtualization Manager.

Benny Rochwerger's Virtualization Tips
  • Virtualization allows you to enjoy the benefits of centralized computing (as with mainframes) without losing the advantages of the PC user
  • Virtualization can be used to ease the construction of billing systems on the Grid
  • Virtualization enables you to increase the utilization of computing resources, an advantage that becomes even more important when working with multi-core processors
  • Virtualization allows you to run different applications simultaneously without them negatively impacting one another
  • If you're concerned about the difficulty of detecting the source of problems in the virtual world, IBM has a solution that will improve with every new release


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