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Virtualization: Technology Architecture For The 21st Century

It's a new year, but IT sings the same old blues: Do more with less, and be well-positioned for the next big thing. Sage advice from on high. Oddly enough, one of the best prospects for meeting this milestone turns out to be an old friend in new clothes: virtualization, or rather, its latest incarnation. The principles of virtualization-a technique that abstracts (or virtualizes) functionality and management functions from dedicated physical devices-have been around for decades: Various time-tested forms include VLANs and storage RAIDs, as well as the virtual machine products on mainframes and Intel platforms such as VMware and Connectix. Long the province of server farms and storage, virtualization is beginning to move from the mainframe into both the data center and the network in a serious way.

Driven by the never-ending need to consolidate data center resources, IT is struggling to wrest more performance out of its servers, which are typically serial underachievers, often added ad-hoc to accommodate new users or applications. These usually utilize a third or less of their total CPU or I/O, while others max out on occasion.

More servers mean more cabling; greater space, power, and cooling demands; and a tendency toward decentralization, spreading infrastructure across greater distances. Each device must be configured individually and as part of the LAN. And the more servers, the more hands to run them, and the greater the security risk from intentional or inadvertent breaches of administrative protocol.

That's where virtualization comes in. Nascent virtual switches, or devices, promise to logically network a wide variety of devices, including firewalls, switches, routers, load balancers, VPN and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) accelerators, and caches.


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