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Intel Brings Virtualization to the Desktop

Delivering on earlier promises to bring hardware virtualization to the desktop this year, Intel announced new processors Monday that a handful of PC makers plan to ship in systems over the next several weeks.

Much broader adoption of the technology is expected for the first quarter of 2006 when Intel includes the technology in new dual-core processors. Virtualization creates independent partitions in a system that can run multiple operating systems and applications for specific tasks such as IT management services and security.

Typically, virtualization is achieved by software from companies such as VMWare. Intel's hardware VT, believed to be a first for desktop PCs, is designed to augment software VT, not compete with it.

"This gives companies like VMware much more fertile ground for their next generation of solutions that would have taken longer to develop otherwise," Patrick Bohart VT marketing manager at Intel told internetnews.com.

Today's announcement is about two uni- or single-core versions of Intel's "Prescott" Pentium 4 line that include virtualization. Intel said it priced the new chips, Models 672 and 662, at $605 and $401 respectively , the same as comparable P4s without VT. The per chip prices are for quantities of 1,000 or more.

"This isn't going to create a stampede of buyers but it's a great step for software developers who need to be more conversant when running in a virtual machine environment," said Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64.

"I'm amazed at the complexity involved in getting virtualization to work and this is going to make it easier. But it's not a panacea. Where you have programs that require a lot of I/O you'll see some performance degradation. AMD is saying it will do virtualization in software which isn't nearly as good."

Intel said PC makers Acer, Founder, Lenovo and TongFang said they plan to use the new chips. Lenovo already has systems out to select customers for testing. But all the big name PC makers are slated to adopt the technology as Intel begins to roll it out in dual-core offerings later this year.

"You're going to see massive eco-system support for VT on both the client and server side next year," said Bohart.