Thursday, September 01, 2005

Data Center Futures: Virtualization an IT reality

TECHTARGET: Data Center Futures
September 01, 2005
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NEWS
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Virtualization in the data center -- a look ahead
[By Ed Parry, Contributor]

Where else but the data center can something so virtual be so real?

Try to sell most data center managers on the real joys of
virtualization, and you'll find yourself preaching to the choir. Most
know the benefits -- consolidation, flexibility and increased
utilization. But some managers might not know that they have some big
decisions to make about the future of their virtual environments.

Nearly 60% of Fortune 1000 companies are virtualizing their servers,
while another 30% have plans to do so, according to a recent study by
New York-based research firm TheInfoPro Inc. The explosive growth of
virtual technologies has caught some IT folks off guard.

"Our virtual environment is growing faster than I thought it would,"
said Joe Foran, director of IT at Family Services Woodfield, a
nonprofit group based in Bridgeport, Conn. "Most of our core
infrastructure runs on virtualization."

The growth of the virtual environment in the data center has expanded
the number of platform possibilities and created a market for tools
to manage virtual machines.

Which platform to pick? What tools to buy? The decision is far from a
no-brainer. Data center managers will be able to select from an
expanding menu.

The data center had been VMware Inc.'s virtual oyster until the last
18 months, according to Tony Iams, senior analyst with Ideas
International in Port Chester, N.Y. But VMware's ESX Server is now
seeing competition from a pair of powerful rivals.

With Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 now available and the open
source Xen entering the picture later this year, data center managers
now have two choices to deploy their virtual machines and hypervisors
to control them.

"The stakes are high for the outcome of this decision," Iams said.

After deciding which platform to choose, data center managers will
have to go tool shopping. Iams said as more and more data center
managers begin to realize the benefits of virtualization and how it
can change their whole operations, the more they will understand they
need different management tools.

Over the next 18-24 months, Iams believes there will be greater focus
on tools to manage virtual workloads. Vendors you've heard of -- and
some that might not even exist yet -- will step in or start up to
meet the demand. "It's a much more complex set of software," Iams
said.

"VMware is the early leader; HP will dramatically step up its
presence," Iams said. "Microsoft is a bit of a laggard, but I expect
them to enter this space with a vengeance, along with a profusion of
startups."

"It's a fantastic market to be in if you're a software developer,"
Foran said. He's waiting another three to four months before deciding
what tools to buy.

Iams also pointed out that provisioning software is an emerging
technology that will be critically important to data center managers.
Provisioning automates the problematic process of putting software on
the hundreds or even thousands of servers launched in a virtual
environment. "I see the decision about provisioning software as the
next strategic decision to be made," Iams said.

Karthik Rau, director of product management at Palo Alto,
Calif.-based VMware, predicts more progress in security.

"Data protection, encryption and quarantining solutions is easier
around a virtual rather than physical environment," he said. "I see
innovation in those areas over the next few years."

Rau added that other vendors are working with VMware on new
virtualization products for disaster recovery and high availability
-- and trying to pitch those products to midmarket firms. "[Right
now] SMBs [small and midsized businesses] don't think
they're candidates for disaster recovery or high availability because
it's not affordable." But Rau sees that attitude changing.

Foran hopes that the near future will bring a marriage of grid and
virtualization technologies. "We have an ungodly number of old
machines in our basement," he said. "I'd love to see a product to put
multiple systems with NAS [network-attached storage] or SAN
[storage area network] back in for storage and combine the
processing power to build a grid virtual machine farm."

Wish lists like Foran's might also guide where virtualization goes
over the next few years.

Rau said VMware products evolve based on what customers say they'd
like to see. "Most customers choose to implement virtualization for
one solution then see other benefits and want solutions for them,
too."

Data center managers should also try to standardize requests to their
vendors, according to Robert Fogel, director of worldwide grid
strategy and business development for Intel Corp. He said it's
important to remember that virtualization isn't just at one level but
comes in layers that are both rich and deep.

"Data center managers need to converge on a standard way of looking
at virtualization and a standard way of demanding it from their
vendors," Fogel wrote in an e-mail to SearchDatacenter.com.

"Generally, the biggest changes will come from how virtualization
services will be offered/orchestrated at one end of the spectrum and
how hardware/platforms will assist the virtualization of operating
systems, applications and data."

RELATED CONTENT:

Gartner: Virtualization a megatrend:
http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid80_gci1090107,00.html?track=NL-271&ad=526770

Virtualization, open source threaten proprietary models:
http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid39_gci1115109,00.html?track=NL-271&ad=526770

Read this tip with hyperlinks:
http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid80_gci1121220,00.html?track=NL-271&ad=526770

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