Virtualisation technology will enable the creation of dedicated environments for desktops that can be tailored to optimise characteristics such as security or gaming, Dell chief technology officer Kevin Kettler said in a keynote presentation at LinuxWorld in Boston.
Virtual systems on a desktop system could allow a browser to run in a dedicated environment that can be killed entirely if it became infected by a virus.
The user experience would be the same as if they had only closed the browser, but under the hood the underlying operating system would be terminated as well.
"If you have virus problems or spam problems, it would be great to just step back and say: 'I'm having trouble with my machine. Let me just kill this secure browser,'" Kettler told delegates.
Virtualisation can also be used to run media servers, offer support for legacy applications when switching operating systems, and make for easier system maintenance, Kettler argued.
The technology lets users run several operating systems on a single physical server with each operating system acting as though it is running on dedicated hardware.
The technology is commonly used for server consolidation and to increase server utilisation, but thus far is rare in desktop environments.
According to Dell, the trend is driven by the rise of multi-core processors, the integration of virtualisation technology into processors from AMD and Intel, and moves towards storage virtualisation.
Virtualisation can drive adoption of Linux on the desktop, but the technology has yet to meet several challenges, Kettler argued. He called on the industry for "tighter standardisation".
This could allow developers to tailor Linux towards special applications, for instance creating a Linux version that is designed to deliver good gaming performance.
"Think about these encapsulated environments and the opportunity to develop around these things. The opportunity is pretty powerful," he said.
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