AlwaysOn: Virtualization re-inventing the data center

AlwaysOn: Virtualization re-inventing the data center

Summary:  Virtualization, along with SOA, multi-core processors and other technologies, is changing the economics of data centers. "It's the biggest thing going on it IT," said Diane Greene, president and founder of virtualization pioneer VMware during a panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit.

TOPICS: Virtualization

 Virtualization, along with SOA, multi-core processors and other technologies, is changing the economics of data centers. "It's the biggest thing going on it IT," said Diane Greene, president and founder of virtualization pioneer VMware during a panel at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit. "It's front and center in the mind of CIOs because they can do a lot more with less." 

She gave a number of 27 million servers humming in data centers, and said how virtualization can lead to significant savings in power, cooling and space, and improved security. "It's the most non-disruptive, disruptive technology," she said, referring to the simplicity of virtualizing an environment.

Much of the discussion, led by Andy Rachleff, a partner at Benchmark Capital, was at the virtualization 101 level. What is it, how does it work, what are the challenges, how will virtualization affect processor and storage vendors, as well as licensing schemes.  Other panelists included Jeff Palmer, CEO of Blue Lane Technologies; Atiq Raza, CEO of Raza Microelectronics; and Ben Horowitz, CEO of Opsware.

Atiq Raza, CEO of Raza Microelectronics; Jeff Palmer, CEO of Blue Lane Technologies; Ben Horowitz, CEO of Opsware; and Diane Greene, president of VMware

In response to an audience question, VMware's Greene brought up the profound change that is coming to virtualized environments. "Operating systems statically configured on hardware are hard to manage and can be bug prone," Greene said. "If you bring in a hypervisor and break the paths [operating systems glued to hardware] apart, the hypervisor manages the hardware and the operating system manages the applications. People will have operating systems tailored to the applications, such as if more security is required. We have ISVs building their own operating systems, and application designers will build own operations systems."


Horowitz said that if you go for creating lots of virtual machines and software stacks, it can be a management challenge. "More of anything, including virtual machines, is more complicated, but it tastes great," he said. In addition, management software has to evolve to adapt to virtualization. Raza brought up that the hardware is trying to keep up with demands set by the software vendors. "That will change in the next three to five years," Raza said. He also noted that virtualization is impacting network architecture. "There is a need for application- and service-oriented networking--multiple servers, management and networking are converging all in on a single platform."

The subject of Microsoft came up. Microsoft competes with VMware, and Greene gave her point of view on what the industry needs to do to avoid repeating the past, exemplified by multiple, incompatible implementations. "The industry goes at Microsoft's cadence. The data center has to change [when Microsoft has new software]. This is a phenomenal opportunity for  the industry. To that end VMware is progressive and pushing standards, so you can run any hypervisor with any operating system with any system management or any virtual machine," Greene said. "If the industry pushes this adoption, [the competition] will be about price and quality. Time will tell if Microsoft will get on with the standard. Things happen very fast with communications, the Web and blogging. When people recognize the opportunity in pushing the standard, I don't know why they wouldn't get behind it."  

Greene also said that virtualization is impacting cultural issues in IT shops. "A data center is organized by the vendors they have right now, but as people operationalize virtualized infrastructure, a big change is going on." Development, testing and production can all use the same infrastructure, breaking down barriers among different groups in the solution chain.

At risk in the new world of virtualization are some of the established players. "Anytime there is a fundamental technology shift,  whoever was a dominant player in  the old paradigm run risk of losing. It goes across operating systems, management vendors and hardware providers," Horowitz said. "I am always into the win-win," Greene said. "Microsoft and x86 environment  is commodity system. It's a big win for the customer, drawing it in to run the data center. It could be a win for Microsoft and the entire ecosystem."

The IT buyer is ultimate winner, said Palmer. "Pick the pieces you want and change on your own schedule."

Topic: Virtualization

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  • Virtualization

    Pardon me for being an old IBM mainframe geek but how long ago did IBM start virtualizing the OS so you could have multiple instances of an OS running on multiple actual CPUs?

    And you say this is a NEW concept?

    • New Use for the concept:

      With Microsoft automatically updating its software and operating system products on its schedule rather than that set by its customers, they create a situation where things that work today, may not work tomorrow. I am certain this has happened to all of us. It use to be called DLL hell and it is the environment Microsoft was to have addressed by documenting its API.

      What happens now is that when something stops working after a Microsoft automated patch, Microsoft is able to say "Not Our Fault, we never told XYZ vendor or your inhouse developers what that DLL was suppose to do." So if you have problems, you deal with it and by the way if you were using the latest Microsoft Office, VB, whatever, you wouldn't have that problem because it tests fine at our shop."

      IT professionals use to be able to convince management that updates to operating system products should be done on a schedule set by internal IT professionals, but just like what Microsoft did to Netscape, internal staff can not keep up with the pace of the updates. So eventually Microsoft takes over the update process and with that of course security. Through an upgrade, spyware could esially be implemented, on government order, or at Microsoft whim, or after payment from one of Microsoft's new advertising clients.

      With the new form of virtualization you are not limited to virtualizing the exact copy of an operating system product. Thats a big difference. So shops using VMware will clone today's Microsoft Operating System Environment for tomorrows bout of DLL hell.

      On any given wednesday, when workers find what worked before no longer does, IT professionals just switch to the master or secondary clone from the degraded clone. No mess no fuss. Or after finding an undocumented DLL or change in file size perhaps they switch to proven clone until it can be verified that spyware isn't involved. Ghost and Zenworks are tools for that, I think.

      When management thinks about changing office suites, it is free to have IT professionals benchmark OpenOffice or StarOffice under Linux in a virtual machine and they can see if SUSE SLED from Novell, RED Hat or whatever Linux makes that software run best.

      The mainframe VM old concept - that of network computers, still exists. This Citrix concept puts the majority of the software that would be on a client on the mainframe instead and about all that is on the client is software that allows Service Oriented Architecture, say VMware client. What those of us that have tried VMware have discovered is that any desktop, all its software, all its network connectivity can be cloned, the file moved to a mainframe server, and then executed as a web service.

      It really is the killer web service of legend. Those services are called Web Appliances by VmWare so I am not certain they have the WSDL to make them pure web services, but that will come, I suspect.

      So, say your office has ligitimate need for Microsoft Office. Every manager needs it preparing some kind of a report or something and the formate rolls up to a corporate level or something. What you do not need to do is purchase all of them Word. You can purchase just a few copies, load them to PCs, clone the PC desktop, move to server and be done with it. No huge roll out, upgrade of client hardware, any of that. Or you can purchase that Web Service for them from a central source, a provider like AOL, Microsoft itself temporarily or forever and be done with it.

      Frank L. Mighetto CCP
  • What about Network Secrity????

    If firewalls and/or NIPS/HIPS settings are aligned with phyical network locations can virtual machines sprawl outside of partitioned zones or be otherwise accessible as they are no longer linked to a physical device/location?
    Sam E
    • Static Network Security Won't Work


      You'll need virtual shields to protect virtual environments. All security functionality tied to physical location is at risk of being compromised.