Virtualization is 50 years old, maybe the ones excited about virtualization don't remember the mainframe

IBM Systems Magazine has an article on the history of virtualization.

Origins Back to the Mainframe

While often considered a new concept, the idea of virtualization is more than a half-century old. In 1959, computer program language pioneer Christopher Strachey published “Processing Time Sharing in Large Fast Computers” at the International Conference on Information Processing at UNESCO in New York. This article dealt with the use of multiprogramming time sharing and established a new concept of using large machines to increase the productivity of hardware resources. Multiprogramming was used in the Atlas super computer in the early 1960s.

Virtualization started to share an expensive mainframe.

Starting with Time Sharing

Recognizing a new opportunity, in the early ’60s, the IBM Watson Research Center initiated the M44/44x project to evaluate the time-sharing system concept. The architecture was based on VMs, the main one was an IBM 7044 (M44). The address space of the 44X was resident in the M44 memory hierarchy machines, implemented by means of virtual memory and multiprogramming. After the first experiments, IBM made a series of updates to its architecture and spawned several others projects, including the IBM 7040 and IBM 7094, in conjunction with the Compatible Time Sharing System (CTSS) developed by the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (MIT).

The latest wave of server virtualization driven by VMware was driven by the realization there were a large number of applications that needed a portion of the server, not even half.  VMware was able to get users to buy VMware to reduce the server costs.

Driving Force

In recent years, enterprises have made virtualization a priority. This has been driven by the need to decrease costs associated with:

  • IT facilities—space, power and cooling
  • Software—licenses, maintenance and support
  • Hardware—servers, storage, network switches and routers
  • Administration—site, server, software, applications and data

In the article IBM goes on to state that it has the longest history of virtualization, there it is the most advanced.  There are many users who don't know the history of IBM's virtualization efforts and wouldn't consider a 40-year head start to be advantage.


These motivators have contributed to the evolution of virtualization technology, and the introduction of a multitude of proprietary on non-proprietary products. However, IBM’s solutions are the most advanced because of the company’s long history in this area. IBM released its first hypervisor in 1967, giving it a 40-year head start on the competition. Most recently, IBM released the z/VM V6.2 update this past April.

For many, Virtualization expertise is not like Scotch that sells for a premium if it is 40 years old.

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