A start-up called VMware has created a self-titled tool that allows IT managers to run multiple, diverse operating systems on the same system.
VMware will allow IT managers to install multiple versions of any OS on a system. Each OS is configured as if it was the only OS on the system, with a portion of hard disk space and memory allotted to that operating system.
Once loaded, each OS environment is secure from the other OSes. For example, if one OS crashes, the others remain unaffected, according to company officials.
An image also can be created and downloaded to multiple desktops over a LAN or remote network. If users need to be upgraded with a new version of a program, they can be instructed to delete their current OS environment and install a new environment, which includes the new version of the application.
A future feature, called Checkpoint, will allow users to freeze their environment at any time, and in the event of a system crash, return to the saved environment.
Software developers writing programs for multiple OSes can test their programs running under different OSes without fear of bringing the entire system down.
VMware will also allow IT managers to encapsulate an environment and literally copy it to a removable storage device such as a Jaz drive and reinstate it on another system.
But some IT managers find the concept troubling.
"Most large enterprises are trying to drive out diversity," said T.R. Webb, technology advisor at Shell Oil, in Houston.
Although the current desktop version is likely to appeal only to highly technical customers, the next version for servers may have more broad appeal among IT managers looking to consolidate PC servers by taking advantage of next-generation 500-MHz and 800-MHz processors from Intel.
The program will provide the capability to switch from running 10 applications on one server with a single version of NT to using one server with five virtual versions of NT, each running two applications.
"With NT, if you can decrease the number of applications running off a single OS, uptime will also increase," said Reza Malekzadeh, director of marketing at VMware.
Both a Linux and NT version of VMware will ship in the second quarter and be priced at $295.