Server virtualization holds tremendous potential for consolidation. With advanced features such as automatic fail over, dynamic relocation, load balancing and consolidated back-up pushing many organizations to embrace and use virtualization technologies. It is becoming the standard way to deploy new enterprise applications, including some of the most business-critical applications.
According to Gartner, Virtualization will have the highest impact on changing IT infrastructure and operations through 2012 and it will change how infrastructure is purchased, managed and deployed (see ‘Go (to the) Cloud with BIOS’). The advent of embedded hypervisors will undoubtedly grow the market and remove the technical barriers to virtualization.
Virtualization technology has moved from early adopters into the mainstream and many high profile infrastructures are virtualized with hundreds of servers. There are more vendors entering the market, and more vendor eco-systems are being formed. As this trend continues, storage virtualization will become the norm and application virtualization will become commonplace. Hypervisor architecture is becoming thin and embedded and will eventually disappear as it becomes absorbed into the hardware. Virtualization technology has impacted on traditional software pricing and licensing models. It has introduced the concept of fractional use of large resources, the ability to quickly change the amount of capacity available to software, the ability to move software from one resource to another easily and the concept of an offline snapshot for recovery purposes.
Virtualization at all levels of IT resource from storage and networking, to servers, promises to transform the IT infrastructure in terms of agility and cost reduction but the management of virtualization is currently fragmented into various point products. As virtualization matures, emphasis will be placed on the composition and management of the virtual resources.
So if virtualization is one of the key answers to the industry’s IT challenges, why are so few seeing the return on investment expected from virtualization? The reason is that there are many aspects of virtualization for the enterprise, it is not easy and one size does not fit all. Virtualization is not a commodity technology – it amounts to a re-architecting of the datacenter and requires expertise and skills to implement, with training and knowledge to manage effectively. Reducing the physical server footprint can save on costs but only if the additional layer of complexity does not increase the management burden. In a virtual environment the manual procedures for coordinating activities do not typically scale. Automated controls are needed to fully exploit technologies in areas such as availability and capacity management.
The rapid growth of server virtualization and its acceptance for business-critical applications has led to a flood of server virtualization products on the market. The current landscape is a set of products, each at a different maturity level. More work is required to meet concerns over server virtualization management, availability, deployment and integration. As prices decline, new pricing models are introduced and improved management tools become available, it will become an optimal time to deploy virtualization technologies, particularly for the mature markets.