[Desktop_architects] Drivers -- below the OS?

Miller, Marc marc.miller at amd.com
Fri Aug 3 16:45:23 PDT 2007

I recently came across an article claiming that virtualization "liberates"
the OS from the hardware, basically implying that the hypervisor can now
contain all of the drivers and that the OS just needs to have a standard
abstraction layer for accessing the true driver involved.  

Funny, I thought the OS's job was to manage the hardware so that the
applications wouldn't have to.  It's almost like outsourcing:  in DOS,
applications had to know what graphics card, printer, mouse, etc. you were
using.  Linux and Windows standardized this by making device management part
of its job.  (and yes, UNIX already did this)  now hardware management is
going down another level of the stack.

Of course, this shift in thinking hits at about the same time that drivers
have become a hot topic for Linux.  Hardware vendors don't want to have to
provide support to OEMs for several versions of the driver (Red Hat, SUSE,
Ubuntu, etc.), some hardware vendors are reluctant to reveal their code (for
a range of reasons), and Linux kernel developers are reluctant to
standardize the API.

If driver management becomes the role of the hypervisor or even of the
firmware and there is no "host" operating system to speak of, will Linux
drivers still matter?

Marc J. Miller
Open Source Relations Manager, AMD Developer Outreach team
Board Member, Linux Foundation
Linux Foundation Desktop/Client Linux Technical Co-Chairman
W:  +1 (800) 538-8450 x43325
M:  +1 (408) 425-4017
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