It's the industry's biggest virtualisation event, and was originally a VMware-only, annual partner and developer-fest. Now rivals turn up too, and the event looks set to become a fixture.

But with the industry focused on the event, it's the place to make product and alliance announcements - both VMware and XenSource have chosen to do so - the former with ESX Server 3i and the latter with Xen.

Both have produced an embedded hypervisor, and VMware has added for good measure OEM deals with hardware vendors including IBM, HP and Dell.

This means that the software, rather than having to be installed as a separate process, is now embedded in flash memory that comes pre-installed in the server itself. Effectively, virtualisation has become part of the server's in-built services, just like hardware monitoring for example.

This is critical for both companies. It means that their technology has the potential to reach a far wider audience, and not just because the system comes ready to run. With the system embedded in the hardware, support becomes the hardware vendor's responsibility and you can be certain that the configuration has been fully tested. Given the virtualisation has by all accounts penetrated under 10 percent of the enterprise market, the advent of embedded virtualisation could mark the opening of the floodgates, providing the final layer of assurance for those at the cautious end of the technology adoption spectrum.

The embedded hypervisor could also prove crucial in forming a barrier to entry against Microsoft, whose entry to the virtualisation market proper with its Viridian hypervisor is only months away. With an embedded hypervisor built in and fully tested, why buy another?

One hopes that the irony won't be lost on Redmond, since Microsoft's ability to persuade hardware vendors to load its products onto their products was crucial to helping the company grow to the size it is now.

So a new route to market is important for both VMware and XenSource. But also important is the implication that the value of virtualisation lies not so much in the hypervisor, which is now hidden as it's no longer bought as a separate product, but in the layer above - in other words, in virtualisation systems management.

When that happens to a product or technology, you can expect the price to fall. And in fact, it's inline with what the major vendors such as VMware and SWsoft, as well as industry analysts, have been saying for some time now. Evidence isn't hard to find, with the Linux kernel having shipped with an embedded virtualisation layer for the last two years.

Additionally, it makes a lot of sense to build a hypervisor into desktop PCs, as this then allows a VM to be fired up for the provision of support and other services. It won't be long before virtualisation becomes just another OS service, like disk and memory access.

This makes sense, since there's a growing consensus in the virtualisation industry that the way to add value is by providing tools to manage virtual machines. Buttressing that contention is the strong rumour that VMware is set to announce the acquisition of Dunes Technology, which describes itself as "devoted to providing a comprehensive, cost effective set of tools to efficiently manage your virtual IT environment."

In other areas, there's co-operation, in areas such as the recently announced open disk format, for example.

Hypervisors just want to be free. As volumes grow with the expansion of the technology into the mainstream, expect the value-add to be higher up the stack.