VMware CTO Steve Herrod has a message for all those that worry that virtualization isn’t a good thing for server hardware vendors — virtualization is driving hardware innovation.
Herrod delivered a keynote at the Interop conference in Las Vegas about his company’s vision for software-defined data centers. It’s a model that enables different hardware and software solutions to fit together.
“When we started out, many people thought that all the server vendors would hate virtualization, but the opposite has happened,” Herrod said. “The reality is that virtualization creates an abstraction layer and has allowed for changes in hardware.”
The abstraction that a virtual hypervisor provides is between the application and the bare metal, which is something that traditional server deployments could not do.
“Because you’ve isolated hardware from software, people are bringing in innovation faster since it just has to fit under the virtualization layer,” Herrod continued.
So instead of server vendors needing to test a full software stack, all that is required is to make sure that new server innovation can properly support and promote virtualization. Herrod noted that the real work in the coming months is to make sure the abstractions are right to properly enable even more server hardware innovation and more flexible data centers.
“The key thing is that people using virtual data centers don’t [have to] wait,” Herrod said. “They have the full concept of elasticity.”
Going a step further, Herrod explained that with applications come server infrastructure expectations. That’s where provisioning tools come into play to help set up and manage those expectations, abstracted from the hardware base. With the right tools, remediation can also be done automatically, something that can also make life easier for server admins.
On that same path of making it easier to deploy software stacks on server infrastructure is the movement toward Platform as a Service (PaaS). Herrod noted that PaaS enables self-scaling and the ability to roll out new application tiers on the fly.
VMware has also been looking at improving virtualization for High Performance Computing (HPC) deployments as well. In his view it has been fairly “hairy” to set up Big Data type deployments on elastic virtual servers in the past, but it’s something that VMware is working on.
In Herrod’s view, HPC and Big Data can benefit from a more flexible pool of resources instead of siloed servers. VMware is now also thinking about real-time and low-latency applications. The Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) specification that is now rolling into servers is also a big help in that regard.
“SR-IOV allows you to get virtual machines very close to network,” Herrod said. “And it allows us to control jitter.”