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Intel: PCs Get Virtualization This Year

Intel will add a new virtualization technology to its Pentium family a year ahead of schedule, the company said Thursday.

Codenamed Vanderpool, the technology lets a computer or server run multiple operating systems (Windows and Linux) and applications on the same machine in independent partitions or "containers."

The concept of virtualization has been around in mainframes for years, but now Intel is extending the technology into the home and corporate client PCs.

Intel said it is still on track to bring the technology to its Itanium family starting with its 90-nanometer Montecito release later this year. The chipmaking giant committed itself to adding Vanderpool -- or VT -- to its PC processors in 2006, to coincide with Microsoft's next-generation Windows OS named Longhorn. But Intel decided to fast track the process after getting a wealth of positive feedback from its testing last year.

"There was a pull for that capability to do it sooner than later in the client space, so we stepped up our efforts and found there was a good wave to ride and to bring it forward to 2005," Bill Kirby, director of desktop platform marketing at Intel, told internetnews.com.

Intel is planning to extend Vanderpool to its Xeon and Pentium M processors in 2006. There is no current plan to include VT in Intel's XScale chip family, Kirby said.

"Obviously they are stepping it up a bit. What will be interesting is how much the technology gets picked up this year," Dean McCarron, founder and principal of analyst firm Mercury Research, told internetnews.com. "The obvious vendor is Microsoft, but one of the virtues of virtualization is that you can have multiple operating systems, and you don't have to have that many software vendors on board."

The usage model for Vanderpool includes media PCs, which can use VT to run a digital video recorder along with a standard PC operating system. In the corporate environment, Kirby said it could be used to run multiple clients or users on one platform or run a separate corporate environment on client PCs.

"From a consumer perspective, a browser session picks up spyware and other bits of data," Kirby said. "With Vanderpool, the browser and operating system could be configured so that when you close that window, it deletes adware and spyware, and it doesn't impact that system."

For a multi-media PC, Kirby said there could be a PVR -- a personal video recorder that works like TiVo -- that could operate in an independent operating system. An end user would be able to load in the movie in a separate container while continuing to use its other functions, even if one side snags or crashes. Kirby said manufacturers or service providers could use VT to service the unit in the background or check on a warranty.

An unspecified number of computer makers and software vendors tested Vanderpool last year, courtesy of Intel's preliminary Vanderpool Technology External Architecture Specifications (EAS) software. Kirby said many of the OEMs and ISVs adopting VT will be revealed during Intel's bi-annual developer's conference in March.

Kirby said OEMs and ISVs are also being careful to create products that prevent unauthorized access to the computers, such as IP spoofing .

Vanderpool is one of Intel's so-called *T technologies, enhancements it adds to the core CPU to make up for the physical speed barriers semiconductor makers must now face. In addition to Vanderpool, Intel also supports Hyper Threading (HT) and Intel's 64-bit extensions (EM64T). Kirby said that Intel's security focused "LaGrande" Technology (LT) and its Active Management Technology (iAMT) still are on track to be delivered in 2006.