I wouldn’t begin the funeral procession just yet, but the server OS may have to come to grips with its own mortality soon. As virtual appliances progress, they are returning the focus to the application and moving the OS from the role of a maintenance burden to one of a service enabler.
Case in point, I used to run a 486 workstation my home router. It ran Linux and had two NICs, with the ipchains and ipfwd services providing my firewall and routing. I loved building that, I even had the entire thing running DSL Linux and booting form a write-protected floppy at one point. Over time, that server’s value diminished. For $30, I could by a wireless router that did much more, and did not require hours of messing with NE1000 NIC drivers every time I did a kernel upgrade. The home router appliance removed the administrative concerns of the OS, actually locking it away from my meddling fingers. I no longer know or care what distribution of Linux it uses, what rev of drivers are in use, or even what the hardware components are. I turn it on, answer a few questions from my web browser and walk away. Aside from the occasional firmware updates, I forget it is even there…and that is of tremendous value to me.
When your server OS requires more maintenance than the application or service being delivered, your priorities are out of alignment with your business needs. Virtual appliances are seeking to return a healthy balance to the data center, turning the attention back toward the service. To read more of my thoughts on this, read my latest TechTarget article, “JeOS: Death of the operating system“.
As always, your feedback is welcome.