Dan and I are at Disney World in Orlando, Florida taking in Gartner's big Fall event; Symposium/ITxpo. Right now, we're both bloggin' from the press room we've also been hitting a few sessions. Given all my recent coverage of the OpenDocument Format, I just got back from one on enterprise content management and Dan apparently took in a presentation on security. If you're here and you see us, be sure to say hi.
Based on what we heard during Gartner CEO Gene Hall's event kickoff keynote, Dan has already posted our high level impression on this Fall's theme: rapid results. While I missed part of the keynote because the battery in my IBM Thinkpad T42 went from 67 percent strength to zero in a blink of an eye (causing my system to go instantly dark on me), I did pick up a few odd news items during the morning's presentation (which included several of Gartner's most senior analysts).
One of those came from Gartner fellow Tom Bittman (pictured above right) who said the next big sprawl that enterprises need to start worrying about (server sprawl has always been a thorn in the side) is virtual machine sprawl. With physical servers where you can size up the problem by seeing all the boxes, it's sort of like Tysons Corner in Virginia where a quick scan of the landscape gives you a real sense of the suburban sprawl that has taken over that region of the state.
But with virtual machines, where you have no idea how many "computers" are inside each of those boxes, I guess Bittman is warning us that things might really start to grow out of control, especially now that virtualization technologies like Intel's Vanderpool and Microsoft's Virtual PC will be on-board in many of tomorrows systems in one way or another.
Another issue with virtualization technologies is that they don't just apply to server operating systems. They also run on desktops. In fact, after installing VMWare's workstation product on one of my test systems, I'm 100 percent sold on the glory of virtual machines. Sure, they take more memory. But the ability to make a clone of my last known stable configuration and to always be able to restart from there -- something you can do with products like VMWare -- is one of those features that you just have to see to realize how useful something like that is. Not only that, while I have one VM attached to my local area network at home (with access to other local systems and printers), I have another one attached to the corporate VPN. In the former, I do all my personal work and private emails. In the latter, it's strictly business. One system. Two virtual machines. Clean separation of work life and personal life.
One real promising use of personal VMs is on the security front. Are you one of those people that's paranoid about the bread crumbs left behind by the ecommerce sites you do business with (and whether someone else can steal your identity)? Then do what I do. Start up a new virtual machine that's basically a completely clean and cloned install of your OS, use the browser (but no other applications) to do your shopping. And, when your done, shut down the VM and delete it. It's like having the ability to wipe out Windows and resinstall it (with all security updates included) in just a few minutes. So, if you think server-based VMs are going to be subject to sprawl, just wait until end users discover the power of personal VMs.
Bittman wasn't done. Then, he mentioned how he's now hearing about companies that ask their employees to not only buy their own comptuers, but take on the responsibility of managing them as well. Uh oh. Are you the family or neighborhood PC guru? Get ready for your phone to start ringing.
OK, so let's say this is a half-way decent idea and you were given a $1000 budget for something . What would that something be?