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Virtualization and Cloud -- Not Necessarily Soul Mates

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 10, 2009


Data center infrastructure shifts are often both dramatic and unpredictable until they are well under way. In recent months, it has crystallized that we are embarking on a post-client/server world that is more than just vapor. Virtually Speaking: As cloud computing and virtualization move past vaporware, they make a nice couple. Although they often appear together, neither relies on the other. The jury remains out, however, on whether it's a fling or a marriage.

Virtualization and cloud computing are together redesigning the landscape of the data center.

This, of course, is far from the first time that has been said. With the increased penetration of virtualization and cloud computing, the technology is well out of the concept stage and into fruition.

This is not a zero sum game, however. Not all data centers will shoot their data into the cloud. The client/server architecture followed and eventually eclipsed the mainframe, and it is not hard to imagine cloud doing the same thing. At least twice a year, someone sounds the death knell for mainframes, yet today, more than 50 years after they were put into production, they're alive and kicking. In an ironic cyclical-like twist, mainframes are even finding their way into the cloud.

Perhaps the key proof-point of the winds of change though is the infrastructure that is building up around cloud. VMware, for starters, has hitched its virtualization wagon firmly to the cloud. vSphere, its latest major undertaking, is all about a cloud infrastructure.

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One thing to bear in mind, however, is that although virtualization and cloud are often tied together, they are not necessarily fused.

As Jeff Byrne, senior analyst and consultant for Taneja Group noted in an e-mail to InternetNews.com, "Most hosting and other large service providers are now using virtualization to create scalable cloud infrastructures, but some notable exceptions, such as Google, are not."

VMware, for which virtualization is a priority, is also far from the only player in this space. Other players may prove to be less attached. On Monday, Asigra unveiled its Hybrid Cloud Backup and Recovery platform. Asigra has been in the cloud space since before anyone even knew (or cared) what cloud was, Executive Vice President Eran Farajun told ServerWatch. On Monday, the company unveiled its nontherapeutic cloud backup platform. While Asigra has long been in the cloud backup space, Farajun is quick to point out that it is not a cloud dealer.

Until two years ago Asigra dealt mostly with physical systems running Windows and Linux. Today, it is typically called on to protect virtual servers, for which the agentless nature of its product is well-suited. Unlike most of the other offerings, which were designed for tape, Asigra uses a protocol designed to go directly into the sources. This allows backup to keep pace with exponential data growth.

With this latest version of the software, Asigra is enabling users to leverage the public cloud, build a private cloud or integrate both into a hybrid data protection model with the flexibility to alternate between the two approaches. It is targeting both the MSPs that build the public clouds and the large enterprises that build their own clouds.

While that doesn't sound all that different from vSphere, bear in mind that the Hybrid Cloud Backup and Recovery platform is designed with backup and recovery -- not operations -- in mind, so in that regard Asigra is not competing directly with VMware. It is, however, competing with the traditional heavyweights. IBM, CA and Symantec remain dominant.

Farajun believes the incumbency of their technologies may prove to be their Achilles Heel. These solutions were designed for a client/server architecture, and they are unable to meet customers' needs in a cloud environment.

No infrastructure is complete without hardware. Most likely in an effort to capitalize on the buzz and move as many boxes as possible, the hardware vendors, seem to be tying the two together. HP Tuesday unveiled its Extreme Scale-Out (ExSO) ecosystem. Included are some new products as well as some products HP was already selling, and much customization.

The new product line is designed for organizations where "the business-technology link is direct and strong," to their core business, John Gromala, director of product marketing for the industry standard servers group at HP, told ServerWatch.

In other words, companies running very large data centers (thousands of server nodes at a minimum), and rely on the data center as a way to make profit, whether through Web 2.0, cloud computing or high-performance computing (HPC) apps.

It is still unclear to what degree virtualization will be part of the equation, both for HP customers and others.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization space since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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