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Java abstraction: The key to virtualization agility

A decade ago, Java showed us the value of abstracting an application from an OS. As recent news from VMware and Oracle shows, Java abstraction has even more value today.

For those of us who witnessed the dot-com boom, our first introduction to the virtual machine (VM) came in the form of a Java application.

As the Internet emerged, soon to become the centerpiece of both entertainment and business, James Gosling and Sun Microsystems Inc. were working on the concept of Java abstraction. Through the Java Virtual Machine, they abstracted the application from the underlying operating system, creating an architecture that could run on a range of systems.

Anything that does not add value is a distraction from your core goals.
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In removing application dependency on a single operating system or system architecture, Gosling and Sun helped demonstrate the value of abstraction to the masses. Java abstraction has in turn paved the way for a host of virtualization-based innovations in the marketplace today.

Java abstraction paves the way for virtualization
This concept of Java abstraction later found its way into hardware through the hypervisor, which abstracts the operating system from the underlying hardware. This abstraction is the basis for VM portability, which makes possible features like cloning, live migration, VMware's Dynamic Resource Scheduling and Distributed Power Management, and more.

In the technology circle of life, the focus has once again turned to the advantages of Java abstraction. In fact, by providing a base layer of abstraction at the OS level, hypervisors have added to the value of the Java Virtual Machine. These technologies are not only complementary but also more valuable when deployed together. The hypervisor severs ties between hardware and the OS, and Java abstraction severs ties between the OS and the application. In a world in which an OS is no longer tied to a set of physical resources, or even a geographic location, agility is king.

This new value proposition and focus is clearly evident in the virtualization marketplace today. In just the past few weeks, Oracle released a new virtual appliance built on its WebLogic Java application server. Last year, VMware purchased SpringSource and its Java development platform -- one of the pillars of VMware and Salesforce.com's new VMforce platform for building and hosting Java applications in the cloud.

With the emergence of Just enough Operating System (JeOS) technologies and virtual appliances, the market is ready for a robust application container that leaves the focus squarely on the application or service being provided. After all, anything that does not add value to the application is a distraction from your core business goals. In many cases, traditional operating systems and application frameworks can be just such a distraction.

About the expert Mark Vaughn (MBA, VCP, BEA-CA) serves as an enterprise architect for a multinational corporation. Vaughn has more than 14 years of experience in IT as a Unix administrator, developer, Web hosting administrator, IT manager and enterprise architect. For several years, he has focused on using the benefits of virtualization to consolidate data centers, reduce total cost of ownership, and implement policies for high availability and disaster recovery. Vaughn is a recipient of the 2009 vExpert award and has delivered several presentations at VMworld and BEAWorld conferences in the U.S. and Europe. Read his blog at http://blog.mvaughn.us.

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