Virtualization This Week
Could Virtualization Fundamentally Alter the Computing Landscape? I just read a recent article on BusinessWeekOnline. What jumped out at me:”Some experts believe virtualization could fundamentally alter the computing landscape as companies cope with storing and transmitting ever-growing piles of data-.Companies gorged on low-priced servers to handle tasks like delivering Web pages and planning production schedules. The result: a data-center obesity epidemic, with thousands of machines running way below capacity.”Second to maybe SOA, virtualization is the most misrepresented technology. The message that seems to be perpetuated is that it only applies to servers. Some people think for instance that the V-word is strictly VMWare or Xen. But critical areas of the overall data center like storage and networks can also be virtualized-a key concept given that storage capacity is growing faster and fatter than server capacity. The prescription that makes most sense here is a balanced diet of dynamic virtualization. So what is Dynamic Data Center Virtualization?When an infrastructure virtualizes the network and critical transport network services (like firewalls, load balancers, etc), server, and storage in the data center we call this Data Center Virtualization.However, most data center virtualization scenarios today are actually static: resources in the data center are virtualized but provisioning of these resources is done manually and is not changed, added to, or moved too often. A better mid-term approach for enterprises and service providers in this case would be to add an orchestration system; something that links the elements together and allows for addition or subtraction of resources aligned to a situation based on actual traffic or, even better, business metrics, service level agreements, etc.In a dynamically virtualized model, time is critical. The faster a re-provisioning event can occur, the more responsive the application can be to the business. When it takes minutes, the main problem solved is the elimination of human-errors and the assurance of compliance with corporate and regulatory policy. As re-provisioning time goes to 30 seconds, or even better, under 10 seconds, real-time and dynamic changes to the IT workload become more responsive, ensuring user experiences and IT service levels are maintained.(By the way, two resources that offer good information on this topic are http://www.vmware.com/community/index.jspa and http://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/)From a business standpoint, virtualization of the network is important because it can drive increased efficiencies in power draw and cooling/heat dissipation in the data center (for facilities best practices and power efficiency, check out www.thegreengrid.org). It is also important because, as we all know, networks link everything together.Are email servers used all the time? Is usage 80% or greater constantly? Do your servers peak during work-days and ebb during off hours? Why not move the instance of an email server, in real-time, to a machine with many other instances in the off hours? Then, as traffic increases, you can dynamically revert back to a dedicated machine. This would require server and network to both be virtualized and to work together— and generate a solution that would yield greater efficiency. Networks, servers, storage, and applications all need to be coordinated to make this vision possible. Server virtualization is a good start, but until the overall data center is virtualized and the re-provisioning times compressed, the full impact of what dynamic virtualization can enable will not be achieved.Finally, if you’re heading to VMWorld this week, take some of this with you -I guarantee you’ll get a whole lot more out of your experience.