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Interview: Mendel Rosenblum of VMware
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Sims: So, who's the target market or your target user for this? It was easy with the idea of running PC software on Macintosh, there was a lot of software that wasn't available on Macintosh and there's also the situation of Mac users having to sort of work in a largely PC world, but, for your system, who are you seeing as the target users? What's the target application?

Rosenblum: Well, one of the things this technology is is this very low level capability that you can use it to do all kinds of things with. We have people using it for a wide range of different uses. I can describe some of the ones that, you know, seem to be more prominent than others. We came out with a version that sort of installs with the Linux operating system, and so a fairly large percentage of the people that get it actually use it to run a Microsoft operating system like Windows 98 or Windows NT or Windows 2000 when it comes out. So, what they see is that, suppose you are a user kind of going to have difficulty running Linux and somebody sends you an Office document, like an Excel spreadsheet or Word document, you kind of have difficulty interpreting that.

If you have Windows 98 running right next door on the same machine, you can just switch to it and run Office on it and read it that way. So, what you can see here is people are running an operating system and they want to run applications that may not, have not been ported to that operating system so they can run it in, in this case, the Microsoft operating system. So, that gives you one idea of use. I can give you another totally unrelated one.

Sims: OK.

"Let's say you're running Windows NT and you have an IT department that says you should not install anything like games ... on your company machine. Well that's hard for a lot of people."

Rosenblum: For example, let's say you're running Windows NT and you're in a company and you have an IT department that says you should not install anything like games or any personal software on your company machine. Well that's hard for a lot of people. You have this PC, you'd like to be able to do some things on it. Well, one of the compromises that the IT department can do is actually install VMWare and another copy of the same operating system and say here's this other virtual machine running maybe Windows NT, you can install your software on that and it won't mess up the company one. So you have a company Windows and a personal Windows.

Sims: On the same hardware?

Rosenblum: Yeah, on the same hardware.

Sims: This is really interesting to me because a lot of the IT people I know wouldn't want it even anywhere near the hardware but you've seen that application?

Rosenblum: Yes, we have. We've talked to a lot of companies. I think you're right though: if you look at the IT managers, a lot of times they want very strict control about what goes on it. But there are a lot of environments where they can't really exert as much control as they'd like, especially here in the valley. We have all these engineers and stuff, you know, like, if you're working in the company and they tell you "You have to run this," you know, the engineers usually find ways around things.

Sims: That's interesting. I can think of another application, too. With web companies, you have to download so much plug-in software and untrusted software that you're downloading over the Net to try things out that it might be nice to have a clean copy.

Rosenblum: Right. Well, that actually points to two other uses we're seeing, one of which is what we call a sandbox where you have this separate environment that you can do untrusted things on. So, even if you're not in a company, you might run this at home and decide that if I'm going to download the latest plug-ins or the latest games or something from some untrusted site, I can run that in a virtual machine.

One of the things that a virtual machine does is provide tremendous isolation. There's nothing any software can do running a virtual machine to get out and affect your other virtual machines or the actual host that you've installed this on top of. So it's pretty known technology how to do that kind of isolation, and it's pretty absolute.

The other thing that people do is like a help desk where people call in and ask questions. They might have a whole bunch of virtual machines with different combinations of software installed. So if somebody calls in and says, "I actually, I'm trying to install your software on a machine and I have NT4 and IE5 and Netscape 4 installed, and something blows up when I start your software," they can bring up a virtual machine that has that kind of configuration and try to work the person through how to get the thing to work.

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