BEA Jettisons the OS

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Here's a follow-up to our blog last week about virtualization's potential to break the OS-hardware connection that's been one of the architectural pillars since the dawn of the computer age.


BEA Systems says its new WebLogic Server Virtual Edition lets you run any application you want under the LiquidVM virtual machine launched with the VMware hypervisor. In other words, no operating system necessary.


BEA says its approach provides for better management and uses less resources (maybe up to 50 percent less) than running under Windows or even Linux. The scheme takes advantage of the fact that Java can duplicate higher-level OS functions, while lower-end functions are handled by the hypervisor.


Still, there are some caveats. For one, the WebLogic Liquid Operations Control system won't ship until the end of the year. And you'll need built-in hardware virtualization to make it fly. But the biggest drawback is that WebLogic virtual machines only support 32-bit x86 applications, even though the server can run on 64-bit hardware. Oh, and you'll have to say goodbye to local disk drive support as well.


The main question is whether an OS-free environment will actually deliver on performance and manageability. Some people may have a hard time giving up their Windows or Linux without some real, proven gains. Others might be glad to see them go.