Virtualization in Big Sur

Watched the keynote, but I still was not clear exactly what they meant when they mentioned virtualization in Big Sur. Will I still need Parallels to run other OS after we transition to Big Sur?

Yes, but only arm based VMs are supported, according to the developer documentation.

No x86 VMs.

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The Documentation is not clear.
What it says is: Virtual Machine apps that virtualize x86_64 computer platforms can’t be translated with Rosetta.

This might mean no X86 virtualization, but it could also mean that Hypervisors (like Parallels or VMWare) will need to be updated and recompiled for ARM. And once they are re-complied they will be able to run x86 VMs.

Most of the reporting I have seen takes the above statement from the Apple Docs and assumes this means no x86 Virtualization is possible, but the statement is about Virtual Machine Apps (like Parallels) and not the Virtual Machines themselves.


One of the things that made me go to using Mac again was the fact that it ran x86 and that with virtualization products (Vmware in my case) I could run Windows.

If I lose that functionality, while an ARM Mac might be a great machine, its useless to me.

Well, the way I take it is, no hardware virtualization. I could imagine Apple implementing some interfaces which would allow for CPU, MEM, and I/O virtualization in such scenario, but the instruction set would have to be translated by the actual supervisor.

Just to clarify, are you saying that Parallels may not work at all unless recompiled for the ARM architecture? Thx

I currently use Windows inside Parallels for one proprietary program for which there is not a Mac version or any other alternative. Doing remote access into an additional box for this one program would be an additional hassle.

I am quite certain Parallels will work (A version of it was shown to be working in the WWDC demo).The question is will it be able to virtualize x86 operating systems?

We don’t have a definite answer on that yet.

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If you really like the Mac OS and want to stick with it, Microsoft’s virtual desktop service might be a good replacement for you. You could get to your Windows instance from any device regardless of the processor architecture.

Also plenty of other non-Microsoft providers that offer this service such as Digital Ocean or Linode.

I know. I work for a MS partner. But, when needing a Windows box to connect to something on the network I’m on, a virtual desktop not local to me won’t work.

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I don’t understand x86 operating systems not working, there is only one real ARM based OS for desktop right now and that will be macOS so I think it’s incorrect to speculate that there will be no x86 virtualization. The blurb about Virtual Machine apps that virtualize x86_64 computer platforms can’t be translated with Rosetta says to me that they need to be moved to native ARM by the dev rather than being translated like other x86 software at install time. As far as I understand, or has been speculated anyway, there will be a hypervisor built into the hardware at some point.

I really think it’s best to wait and see what happens and all this “omg ARM, run away” is just going to prove to be nonsense. If anything the problems will be Apples own infancy in this field but these machines are going to be killer. They know we live in a world where everything else is x86 and ppl need to run Linux and Windows and templeOS. It will all be possible. Maybe they do it in such a way that only a pro machine has the required hardware but it’ll be there. Just wait and see.

It may well become possible, but it won’t be fast and available soon. The thing with virtualization of x86 is that it has hardware to control execution of other x86 processes at chip speed with necessary interrupts if privileged code attempts to run. Having ARM emulate x86 at native speed is not going to happen easily if ever, unless ARM gets an x86 license and embeds an entire x86 CPU inside of an ARM CPU.


The other point to make is that within the next few years there just won’t be a windows as we all know it now. You can see MS moving already. Like Apple it’s a slow shift but eventually the kernel will become a Linux kernel and they’re building everything for ARM as well (iOS apps, android devices). While I still need windows as much as the next guy, tbh barely ever anymore though, it’s quite interesting where they are moving with this whole thing.

On the point of x86 emulation. I have this feeling that these arm chips, maybe in a couple gens, will be able to emulate x86 on the fly and you won’t even notice it. Where x86 is stuck, SOC has infinite room to grow. So maybe they won’t embed an x86 chip but they could just embed an entire high speed arm chip dedicated to the task.

Are you high on Apple flavoured juice or something? Silicon is silicon. ARM is getting faster because it’s finally getting onto smaller featured silicon. (Intel is having some problems getting there, yes, but Intel is not all of x86.) Ryzen processors are also getting onto smaller featured silicon and showing respectable gains as well. ARM isn’t anything magical or even special… it’s just another arrangement of sand.

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Ya, except that the amount of work an arm chip can do per watt vs x86 is awesome. The fact that you can build these things with low power cores, high power cores, task specific cores etc etc changes the complete dynamic. Say what you want about smoking apples but the fact is going to arm socs changes the picture and how you have to think about a cpu.

Intel is up the creek. Core saved them once when amd was doing things better and now that has come to roost. Obviously there is something very difficult about getting x86 down in process size otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

Arm may not be some magical thing but when it can do 95% of what x86 does at a fraction of the power and generate a fraction of the heat that’s good enough. Obviously x86 has its place but I’m sure you’ve noticed that the world is moving to arm. The amount of development being done today for arm platforms of various kinds is growing and growing. The main issue now is that Apple will have a monopoly on desktop arm hardware which is a shame cause Linux desktop and windows should both have the chance to run on arm. It’s gonna be a pretty stupid feeling to buy an x86 laptop with 10-12hrs of battery when you’ll be able to get an arm Mac with 20+, with probably less battery.

Well… I don’t know how old you are, but I’ve been around long enough to have seen the “flavour du jour” change a few times. 6502 used to be what computers [average people could afford] were. Then 680x0 had a run at fame and fortune. Then x86 was brought to the fore by IBM. Behind the scenes of a lot of this was IBM System 360 running big businesses in it’s various flavours and scents… until it turned out that thick client was in vogue. And then somewhere along the way the cloud came along… along with handheld computing. ARM is having a good run right now, for sure, but I don’t think for a second that something newer and “excitinger” isn’t just around the corner waiting to be nominated as Prom King or Queen.

Partly true. The other part of the equation is that ARM is now being moved to TDPs suitable for laptop and desktop use, which means higher performance, because they can use more power.

But ARM still faces the same physical restrictions that any other processor faces. Physics is physics.

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That it is.

Again though, it’s not really arm which is really enticing here, it’s the SOC view of a cpu I think. The ability to have highly optimized and specialized silicon for specific things coupled with low power arm cores for surfing the web and daily task coupled with those high power high speed general arm cores is the really exciting part. It’s getting way more out of every watt vs general purpose x86 architectures where the difference will be the biggest.

Having special hardware to do special things is great as long as the special things never evolve. Intel included special hardware for encoding and decoding H.264 and then H.265 started to emerge. Now I think they have special hardware for H.265 and H.266 is on the cusp. I mean it’s great for the manufacturers, they want you to regularly consider your old computer obsolete and replace it.

Please never forget, however, that functionality of silicon in measured in area. The more area you have active, the more heat you produce. Even special purpose silicon produces heat when it’s being used. Running the CPU faster also produces more heat because you need to up the voltage (in general.) These are all the results of the physics at play… even a purported “magical” Apple silicon CPU must obey the laws of physics.

It’s great [for Apple] you’re excited, but I personally think you have unreasonable expectations and will find Apple’s end result will be as average and ordinary as any other mid to high end CPU.

Received notification today to download Parallels Desktop 16 for M1 Mac Technical Preview however:

Review Limitations.

As this is a new virtualization engine, there are both some fundamental technical limitations related to the Intel x86 platform, and some temporary limitations due to a work-in-progress product state. Please note well key limitations of this version below:

  • It is not possible to install or start an Intel x86 based operating system in a virtual machine.
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