The Future Of Virtualization

The real battle (the place where vendors will make money, and you'll spend it) will be for management, including security.

Art Wittmann

December 11, 2007

3 Min Read
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Last week, InformationWeek held a single-day event called the "Future of Virtualization." Along with me and Charles Babcock, InformationWeek editor at large, were reps from Citrix/XenSource, VMware, Sun, and Blue Lane. You'd expect some contention from this group, and that's exactly what we got. But there was some agreement, too. Everyone agrees that while the Hypervisor is tricky technology to get right, it's also relatively well understood, at least in terms of taking the four or so cores on today's chips and divvying them up amongst a larger number of processes. The real battle (the place where vendors will make money, and you'll spend it) will be for management, including security.

While it may seem as though Blue Lane was the odd vendor out for this event, Greg Ness showed that the Blue Lane team has put a lot of thinking into the tools and processes necessary for managing and securing data in a highly virtualized environment. This was in relatively stark contrast to the three users who provided insights into their virtualization efforts. While they'd certainly put plenty of thought into how to run their environments, they weren't concerned with their security posture.

Each of the three had done substantial work to virtualize at least a part of their operations, and one, who was from a division of Time Warner, reported moving average server utilizations from 5% to 85%. And while security wasn't high on the list of concerns, management was. More particularly each was concerned about how they'd charge back for their virtualized environment and how their licensing costs would change as a result of virtualization. Our December 3rd cover story explored the latter issue, and we spent a good bit of time later in the day quizzing the vendors on the former.

Their answers to the resource monitoring and charge-back question say a lot about each vendor's approach to the virtualization business. Sun was the only vendor who readily had an answer for the question - albeit for Solaris Containers. But Sun says that xVM is all about management, and points to its Ops Center as the right tool for managing the virtual environment. It's typical Sun - we know data center management needs, and we'll supply the tools.

Citrix, in a nature befitting Xen's roots wants someone else to provide the functionality. That's where the extended development community comes in. Citrix will make plenty of good management software, but resource tracking is a bigger deal. You may, for instance also want to track storage usage, and use of computing resources beyond that virtualized by Xen. Wouldn't it be smarter to find a vendor who wants to become expert in all that?VMware fell somewhere in between. It doesn't have a solution now, and while it does see the potential for a solution coming from it's third party developers, this is the sort of thing that VMware wants to own.

Each of the vendors recognized that the hypervisor is on its way to becoming a commodity - though they disagree on whether we're headed for a single one, or a handful. The fight now has moved to the management layer, which should make for some interesting changes product pricing and licensing.

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