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... like running a PPC or ARM system on x86 hardware.

As far as I know:

  • VMWare can't
  • QEMU can
  • KVM can because it uses QEMU

Is this correct? What other solutions are there?

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If it can, it's emulation software ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn May 8 '09 at 10:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

That's not virtualisation, that's emulation. Virtualisation can be seen as a specific kind of emulation where you emulate the same machine on itself, accelerating the emulation by letting some of the instructions run for real.

Your question should just be "What emulation software exists?", which is probably too wide a question to be useful. Wikipedia lists quite a lot.

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Virtualisation software (hypervisors) won't do this at all. VMWare is a hypervisor and QEMU is an emulator - they are fundamentally different technologies.

Depending on what you are trying to emulate a suitable emulator may or may not be available. For example, there is an IBM mainframe emulator called 'Hercules' that will let you boot up mainframe operating systems, and some older versions of these systems can be downloaded for free. Other emulators may really only be suitable for debugging or system development work, as opposed to running legacy applications.

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Not the case sorry, but those that do are hardly big-name apps so no biggy. The first one I used was VirtualPC for Mac, back when Macs were on PPC chips - they're slow but work very well generally. –  Chopper3 May 8 '09 at 8:54
VirtualPC was a hardware emulator that interpreted the machine instructions in software. This is different to a hypervisor which does not interpret the mahcine instructions but fakes various hardware resources such as memory management units. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells May 8 '09 at 8:56
But there's a grey area between hardware emulators and hypervisors if you look purely at functionality. I just wanted to give the guy some options. –  Chopper3 May 8 '09 at 9:02
Why a "hardware emulator"? As the OP said, QEMU is a software emulator and do it (running a "Sparc" on i386) perfectly. –  bortzmeyer May 8 '09 at 11:49
I think we're comfortably into splitting hairs about terminology. Emulators and hypervisors are fundamentally different technologies, which was the point of the posting. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells May 8 '09 at 12:57

SIMICS and GXemul can do quite a few

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PearPC is a Power PC emulator for x86 platforms (Windows and *IX I think)... not sure if you can run AIX on it yet but I've heard plans on it - something I'd really want to do myself for testing purposes - but at least it runs some of the more common PPC operating systems ^^

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