This afternoon, Pratik Gupta (currently responsible for Virtualization Management at IBM) came into my office so I could give him a copy of a VM with some recent interesting IBM software. As I was demoing the VM, I momentarily got confused about whether I was in the host operating system (the Mac OS X instance running on my MacBook Pro) or the guest operating system (an Ubuntu Linux operating system running inside VMWare Fusion). Pratik then told me about a configuration he was toying around with that involved three or four layers of virtualization and how confusing that could get. He calls it “the hall of mirrors”.
It somehow reminded me of the movie Inception from last year that deals with dreams and dreams within dreams and dreams within dreams within dreams, and how you can get confused about what “layer” you are actually existing in at any given time. It’s interesting to think about the similarities between a computer environment – like an operating system, or The Matrix, or The Grid – and a psychological plane of reality like “the real world”, a dream, or a dream within a dream.