Virtually Speaking: Architecture or Technology?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jan 26, 2007


Amy Newman
As enterprises take to virtualization like a duck to water, the server room may be about to undergo a major infrastructure shift.

Is virtualization more than just a technology? Eric Vishria, vice president of marketing at Opsware, believes so. Vishria was among the host of analysts and vendor representatives on hand at Ziff Davis' Virtual Tradeshow on Virtualization on Thursday.

Vishria was one of several presenters at this tradeshow in cyberspace (which also featured a "virtual" expo floor complete with "virtual" networking). Vishria said views virtualization as a next-gen architecture on par with client/server. Judging from the vendor announcements that came out this week, both inside and outside the virtual arena, he may well be on to something.

Centeris, for example, released Likewise Identity 3.0, the latest version of its cross-platform identity management solution. Likewise Identity is designed to integrate Linux and Unix users and systems within Microsoft Active Directory. Centeris is not a virtualization vendor and this isn't a virtualization solution, but it is designed for heterogeneous server rooms. As time goes on and virtualized infrastructures become the norm, it will need to accommodate them.

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Virtualization is becoming pervasive, Laura DiDio, Yankee Group analyst and keynoter, told the virtual audience at the show. It is now a must-have technology for enterprises. Thus, it's no longer a matter of if, but rather a matter of when an enterprise will virtualize. A Yankee survey puts virtualization on a steep upward growth trajectory for at least 24 months, with more complex deployments expected to take place 2007 and 2008.

The success of such deployments (and the move from test and dev to production) will depend on many factors, including hardware interoperability and backward compatibility between hardware and legacy applications.

Compatibility issues and outdated equipment will likely come as good news for the OEMs, as enterprises buy more equipment to be able to do more with less.

DiDio said enterprises doing implementations, must pay attention to licensing terms. Depending on the virtualized structure, the price difference between an OS-instance-based license and a processor-based license could be vast.

She recommends first evaluating the hardware and ensuring it's up to the task, then evaluating the applications, and making sure they're suited to each other. Finally, get the vendors talking to each other to ensure compatibility all around.

DiDio notes that with the virtualization space growing as fast as it is, there is ample room for smaller, niche players (e.g., Cassatt, Egenera and Virtuozzo). According to the survey, such players collectively account for less than 3 percent of the market share. Organizations using such players should ensure the vendor will provide adequate support

What's next? According to DiDio "storage virtualization is going to be huge." Yankee Group currently estimates storage virtualization to be 9 percent of virtualization instances, a number it expects will hit 25 percent by year end, as the amount of data being saved is so huge that storage requirements are, in some cases, quadrupling.

She also predicts a proliferation in management and tools offerings. Perhaps poor planning and ill-fated deployments will contribute to their growth.

Finally, new packaging options will emerge as virtual machine technology and software appliances convergence. She anticipates virtual appliances will appear in the latter part of 2007.

Even the OEMs, which perhaps have the most to lose from virtualization, are getting in on the act. HP on Thursday announced HP Virtualization Assessment Services, which is scheduled to debut in February.

As virtualization moves to being a de facto technology, or architecture, OEMs are realizing it will impact their bottom line (at least in the long term — in the short term, they may see an uptick as enterprises refresh older hardware with virtualization-capable boxes) and acting accordingly.

HP is the latest vendor to expand its offerings in the virtual space.

The program is designed to open a dialog between HP and enterprises about the value of virtualization. HP aims to extoll the positives and mitigate the negative, and no doubt sell many management applications along with the hardware.

HP is not the first OEM to develop such a program. IBM and Intel recently partnered on a benchmarking methodology dubbed, vConsolidate. Together, they will offer tools to help customers select, deploy and measure virtualized server solutions.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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