HP's acquisition of Phoenix virtualization assets adds to its Linux muscle

The virtualization products could also expand HP's mobile market and propel the company with instant-on technology

Phoenix Technologies, the company best known for its long-running BIOS technology, announced it was getting back to basics by divesting itself of some assets and returning to a strategic focus on the company's core systems software (CSS), where it remains a market leader today.

In April 2010 the company sold off its FailSafe and Freeze assets. Then last week Phoenix said Hewlett-Packard had agreed to purchase the company's virtualization product line assets. HP will pay $12 million in cash for those assets in a deal that is expected to close sometime later this month. The main products include Phoenix HyperSpace, HyperCore, and Phoenix Flip. Despite a number of remarkable partnerships, the company's virtualization product line failed to make any significant impact on the market; Phoenix Technologies never really made its mark and never really appeared to be a serious virtualization contender.

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Back in November 2007, InfoWorld's Virtualization Report first reported that Phoenix Technologies was entering the virtualization market with its own hypervisor-based technology. At the time, Phoenix said its new HyperSpace technology would transform the mobile personal computing experience, describing its new technology as an instant-on capability that would quickly offer its users the ability to launch specially designed applications such as multimedia players, IP softphones, email, instant messaging, Web 2.0 browsing, embedded security, and more, without having to wait around for the underlying operating system to boot up.

The HyperSpace technology is a compact and secure Linux-based application environment designed to be used on conventional PCs. It supports both x86 and ARM processors and runs alongside the Windows operating system. The environment enables PC users to benefit by having key productivity and lifestyle applications available in an instant-on fashion, even while Windows is booting, shutting down, in standby mode or yes, even while crashed. The benefits included new levels of reliability, serviceability, and low power consumption, as well as a more secure environment that is less prone to viruses, malware, and other external attacks that generally threaten Windows, all of which are important in the business world.

The HyperSpace platform is enabled by an efficient hypervisor called the HyperCore that is embedded within the core system firmware or BIOS. HyperCore is a lightweight Zoned Virtual Machine Monitor (ZVMM) that runs specialized core services and operates side-by-side with Windows.

Phoenix Flip allows users to toggle back and forth between two operating environments on the same device. In a day and age where businesses are looking for ways to easily separate and isolate the personal from the business on company machines, this technology could allow users to flip between the two as needed.

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