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Chrome OS, 3G Netbook, Client Hypervisor Convergence?

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Sundar Pichai’s post Introducing the Chrome OS

Chrome OS is designed for people who spend most of their time on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS.

Chrome OS has generated a lot of excitement and buzz over the past few months. The driver for introducing Chrome OS is the widespread use of the Internet and the dramatic rise in adoption of NetBooks (called ultraportables by IDC) during 2008 – 2009.

Benefits for notebook and ultramobile device users

  • Fast boot, instant web access.
  • Worldwide accessibility of personal data, i.e., documents, pictures, MP3’s, videos, etc., since they are stored in the Cloud.
  • Promise of being able to run web apps offline and sync data with the Cloud when online (with the forthcoming HTML5 support).

Benefits for all users

  • Safe browsing – users don’t have to worry about viruses, adware, malware
  • Speed – no hidden services and extensions slowing down the computer while running in the background
  • Users cannot lose data that resides in the Cloud due to a computer disaster or forgetting to back up files.
  • No/Low administration overhead – users don’t need to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about applying software updates.

Essentially, Chrome OS’s key value is to convert a Netbook (or any computer for that matter) into a fixed- function web interaction device. This is a great vision and in all likelihood will be realized in 2010 when 3G notebooks become mainstream in the US and Europe – they already are in Asia. However, let us examine where Chrome OS fits within the landscape of products from Microsoft and Apple:

OS Vendor Netbook Tablet Notebook Desktop
Microsoft Windows 7 Windows CE Windows 7, XP Windows 7, XP
Apple None iPhone OS Mac OS X Mac OS X
Google Chrome OS Android None None


While Chrome OS is well-positioned for the 3G notebook market niche, its safe browsing and speed are particularly important benefits for users who browse the web from their notebook and desktops also. This installed base of users are not going to be migrating away from their notebooks and desktops because of “stickiness”of the apps, e.g., Outlook mail and calendar integration, Adobe’s Creative Suite or financial apps that use Dot Net technologies on Windows, the holistic user experience on a Mac. It is difficult to change user behavior!

How can Chrome OS extend to desktops/notebooks in home and business use today?

That’s easy, through the use of virtualization. Virtualization will let users

  • Run multiple disparate OS’s on the same hardware
  • Realize the Bring Your Own Computer model for VDI and maintain separation of work-related and personal, apps and data.
  • Create a safe and secure browsing environment at home or at work on their personal computers

A client hypervisor running on a netbook, notebook or desktop can permit Chrome OS to be booted in a VM for providing a fast boot, instant web access capability while Windows is still booting up in the background.

Written by paule1s

March 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Best Practice: Defrag VMDK, VHD, VirtualBox Virtual Disk

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Wikipedia describes defragmentation as

a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems. It does this by physically organizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously. It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation.

Generically, the defragmentation of a Windows guest within a virtual disk running on a Windows host (Windows on Windows) requires a three-step process:

  1. Defragment the guest
  2. Defragment the virtual disk
  3. Defragment the host

On a Linux host or guest, the ext3 and ext4 file systems are more resilient to defragmentation.

Windows on Windows

You should perform the following steps whether you are using a Microsoft VHD, VirtualBox VDI or VMware VMDK virtual disk,

  1. On a Windows guest OS, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to defragment the files within the volumes stored inside the virtual disk.
  2. Next, power down the virtual machine and defragment the virtual disk using contig. Defragmenting the virtual disk simply reorganizes the blocks so that used blocks move towards lower-numbered sectors and unused blocks move towards higher-numbered sectors.
  3. Run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to achieve an overall defragmentation of all files on the host including the virtual disk.

VMware VMDK specific

The following steps can be used generically for VMware VMDK, for Windows on WIndows or any other suppoted platforms. vmware-vdiskmanger:is a standalone tool for defragmenting a growable VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion or VMware Server, vmdk when it is offline. Note that you cannot defragment:

  • Preallocated virtual disks
  • Physical hard drives
  • Virtual disks that are associated with snapshots.

The recommended steps for defragmenting a vmdk are:

  1. On a Windows guest OS, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to defragment the files within the volumes stored inside the VMDK.
  2. Next, power down the virtual machine and defragment the vmdk using the command vmware-vdiskmanager -d myVirtualDisk.vmdk. Defragmenting the vmdk simply reorganizes the blocks so that used blocks move towards lower-numbered sectors and unused blocks move towards higher-numbered sectors.
  3. If the host OS is also Windows, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to achieve an overall defragmentation of all files on the host including the VMDK.

how “capitalism” forces virtualization downstream

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Over the last decade we have systematically added a layer of indirection at every interface in the stack. These days we call this virtualization!

On a NetApp Filer we had

> raid disk group > volume

The problem was you could not expand/shrink Raid Groups on the fly, you couldn’t move data easily between different Raid Groups. We get a layer of indirection or virtualization

> raid disk group > aggregate > flex volume>

Since an aggregate was logical instead of physical, it could be expanded or shrunk without changing the volume, you could move data around.

On a USB Disk

If we look inside the disk itself, especially usb flash devices we went from

cylinder, heads, sector > logical table > device abstraction

Again this allowed the rotation of different logical sectors to different physical cells, to ensure a single cell was not rewritten more times than its lifetime.

In a SAN

we put a switch between the Raid Groups and the computer. The switch puts a layer of indirection between the blocks and the computer

You knew all that :-). So what does it have to do with capitalism. My simplistic definition of capitalism is that the system will remove all inefficiencies in a chain and who ever will remove them stands to benefit economically. Or said another way: money finds its way into the right pockets!

So look at the stack today:

chips > motherboard, network, storage, bios > hypervisor > OS > Security, Backup etc > Business, Productivity Apps

Every layer presents an interface to the layer above. Each layer is also owned by different companies in the eco-system. Each of those companies has pressure to maximize its revenue. Tasked with this difficult challenge, you look at the layer above and see what is selling and can you add it to your layer. Happens naturally over time: intel added virtulization support, phoenix bios is adding the hypervisor, operating systems are trying to add backup and security …. The cycle goes on ….

Virtualization will be “innovated” always in a higher layer of the stack and commoditized by the lower layers.

The higher layer in the stack finds a lot of new functionality and benefit by making interface to a lower layer “logical”. They take this to market, till at some point the lower layer realizes that this is their API, they should move virtualization into their layer. The pressure to do this is extreme and the time frame to monetize this really small:

  • Imagine the tussle between VMW and the storage vendors. VMW introduces logical disks with cloning, but storage vendors want to offer logical luns and volumes and disk files, as this moves the cloning functionality from the hypervisor to the storage.
  • Imagine: Western Digital or Seagate could create multiple disks (vhd/vmdk files) on a single physical disk and then offer the capabilities to grow, shrink, move data between them. Even add networking to the disk controller, then different disks can connect to each other. They can do that if the processing power, memory reach a price point that it can be embedded directly into the component or lower layer. Which is what effectively happened to computing.
  • VMW introduces logical network switch, Cisco jumps in with nexus-V

For a consumer this is a good thing, but money and value are shifting down stack across different companies, which have to co-exist in the eco-system (cisco, intel, emc, vmw), yet guard their innovation from becoming commoditized.

Written by RS

December 13, 2009 at 8:36 am