Virtualisation has been around for a long time, but it has only recently become an essential part of enterprise IT. With the addition of explicit virtualisation support in most recent processors, it has become cheap, reliable and powerful enough for everyday work — and companies such as VMware have effectively capitalised on its promise.
That lulls vendors and users into complacency, because VMware and friends have demonstrated those parts of virtualisation that are easy to understand and easy to use. Better manageability, greater efficiency and reduced capital expenditure are powerful arguments.
Yet those benefits are not everything virtualisation has to offer by any means: the technology has far greater capacity for disruption than that. So to jolt IT into different ways of thinking about what it can do with virtualisation, here are 10 different angles on what can happen when you go virtual — and what gets destroyed in the process.
1. Destroy lock-in
Your old data needs an old application, and the old application needs an old operating system. Compatibility is only maintained in newer systems from a single vendor: if you don't buy that, you lose your data.
But if you keep a virtual machine configured with the old system, you can run what you like.
2. Destroy incompatibility
Once you have a virtual machine running your software, then many of the dangers of hardware upgrades go away. As long as your virtual machine runs, all your applications will follow along without a murmur — and even if your virtual machine becomes incompatible with your new hardware, you can run it within a virtual machine of its own.
3. Destroy time
Right now, you can, if you wish, run a virtual computer from 50 years ago on your latest desktop. Not much electronics survives unscathed for half a century, but that virtual machine will run even better than the hardware could manage when brand new. If you can store data, you can hold back time.
4. Destroy space
A virtual machine takes up the space required in a storage device to hold a few million bits. That's a fraction of a square millimetre. You can have 100 different PC configurations — and a running version of just about every computer ever sold commercially — sitting on a thumb drive instead of in the large campus that would once have been required.
5. Destroy revenue
A lot of vendors link software licences to processors, sometimes for life. If your hardware changes, you have to re-licence on the vendor's terms. But if you're running that software on a virtual processor that cannot go wrong — and that will migrate happily to new generations of hardware, or even onto the cloud — then there's no reason for the license to ever change. And that means one big money opportunity for the vendors gone for ever...