From a title like that, it is not that hard to conclude that I am a fan of the Matrix movies. There was something powerful about the first movie that really had not been told before. Besides the fact that they produced a movie with some of the most advanced special effects of the time, the also captured the imaginations of millions of people.
Having worked in the software industry since 1989, certain trends are becoming more and more clear. There has been a number of revelations and advancements in the last 18 years that overshadow the changes that happened before. For example, there was a time that people thought that a 386 might be too much power for one user. Or, the classic, 640K should be more than enough.
The truth is that humans will always expect more of their computer systems. If it is gigabytes today it will easily be terabytes tomorrow. Bandwidth will also grow to attempt to satisfy this unending need. The question becomes, at what point could reality be duplicated? How many bits of information could possible capture the essence of what is real? At what point would it be difficult to tell the difference?
I think the fundamental flaw with this line of thinking is that the world is not based on digital computers. The world is based on the largest form of analog quantum computing possible. This is really just a suggesting since the overall point is that you can never capture reality in its entirety simply because it is way too big and cannot be nailed down. Another way of saying it is that you cannot take one piece of reality without the need to connect it with the other parts of reality. It is the issue of context.
Now before I go waffling on about real versus virtual, let me just say that the dream of capturing reality is largely misguided. The point of virtual worlds should not be about trying to capture the essence of reality but rather focus on fooling the mind based on its weaknesses and assumptions. A truly clear mind would see even through the veil of reality to see the man behind the curtain. A mind that is easily distracted will also be easily fooled.
Places like Second Life are attempting to generate an environment that users can participate in as if it was more lifelike. There has been a lot of hype about it in the last year and I am sure that it is worth investigating. However, the question becomes “Why?”. One angle is to do things in a virtual world that would be impossible in a real one. This invites a strange mix of entrepreneurs, dreamers, and the oldest profession. The thinking would go along the lines that reality is restricting and a virtual environment allows anything. This makes it a bit like the Old West with the lack of law enforcement. Perhaps it makes a great environment for those that feel repressed but where does it leave the rest of the world?
The greatest power of the matrix is it’s ability to fool the senses. It is so real, that your mind thinks its real. That power not only controls you but also gives you a sense of security. Once you realize the nature of the matrix, you know that there is nothing that can hold you back. Instead of fighting the system, perhaps you will realize that you are the system. For how can any matrix withstand the memory of how it was brought to bear.
Virtualization is really an attempt to transform something real into something unreal. The overall goal is to make everything in that environment believe the fundamental lie to bring everything in line so that everything just works as it always did. This was IBM’s big revelation in the 60’s with its mainframes and now that industry is finally signally strength in the PC environment. I am glad that it is finally happening this way and many good things will come from this advancement. As one of those benefits is the concept of keeping old applications and data. Another benefit is the potential for easy powerful upgrades based on new hardware technology. Also, it allows for a much more dynamic nature with regards to location and migration. It is no longer restricted to specific hardware.
The reality is that virtualization is getting good enough to fool most software. Even better, it is getting more embedded with the chips that run it (based on the extensions of Intel and AMD). The trend is strong and clear. Virtualization is going to transform not only the way our computers get their work done but also give the users and administrators the power to do their work regardless of what happens to hardware and software platforms.
The good news is that computers are good at virtualizing themselves. They know the rules and they know the codes. It really is just a matter of putting together a system that performs well enough to fool the average user.
It is also good that Citrix has decided to enter this market. It is key to be involved with this transformation into a more unified environment. There are several flags waving and Citrix has made a strategic decision not only to pick a flag but to also buy it as well. That might put other companies at odds but this is really about Citrix trying to build a complete solution from end to end. Virtualization is a hot market now and makes sense for a long term investment.