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Parallels demos high-end VM techonology on a Mac

By John Rizzo

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today Parallels demonstrated new technology that will be part of future high-end virtualization products for Mac OS X. The technology, called Direct Assignment, can dedicate an entire Mac Pro's graphics card to a virtual machine for graphics and for general processing, resulting in native performance for a virtual machine. For a Mac Pro with three NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards, two can be dedicated to two virtual machines.

Parallels currently uses the Direct Assignment technology in Parallels Workstation Extreme for Windows and Linux, which shipped in April. Parallels demonstrated the technology running on a Mac Pro.

Today, the software is designed to work only on computers with the Intel quad-core Xeon 5500 processor series and NVIDIA Quadro high-end graphic cards. This is the Mac Pro for Mac OS X. For Parallels Workstation Extreme, this is the HP Z800 workstation series.

Parallels’ Chairman and CEO Serguei Beloussov said that Parallels is targeting the software at high-end, resource-intensive uses, such as digital content creation and scientific applications. "We’re targeting content providers, such as game developers, not gamers."

Users can assign up to 16 virtual CPUs to virtual machine. Instead of sharing the host’s graphics driver, each virtual machine has it’s own graphics driver. The software also uses less power because it has lower overhead, and is not translating as many calls as do current Mac virtualization products.

Parallels said that when running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server in a virtual machine, the Snow Leopard OpenCL technology for controlling graphics cards will run in the virtual machine. However, Parallels said that Direct Assignment does not depend on Snow Leopard, and is independent from any features of the upcoming OS.

Parallels did not announce a Mac product; it only demonstrated the techonology on Mac OS X. Beloussov indicated that there could be several products aimed at different markets that use the technology.

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