In the wake of some very 'real' encounters spent discussing virtualisation at the Parallels Summit 2009 this week, I still have a smorgasboard of opinions, analyst comments and the thoughts of those companies who choose to partner in this space to get off my chest.
I guess the over-riding theme (or more accurately, the over-riding question) is - to just what extent virtualisation has reached its peak in terms of industry adoption? This point, equally, throws up the question as to how many types (or stages, levels, implementations etc.) of virtualisation there really are and in what scenarios this strategy for handling data should be adopted.
Speaking with Parallels CEO Serguei Beloussov personally, I was keen to discuss the possibility of industry standards in this space as we move towards wider penetration of hosted data management practices. Beloussov made the point in his keynote that the very definition of the term 'cloud computing' is still moving.
We do therefore (I would like to argue) need to pin a few things down before software developers can use more of these data streams safe in the knowledge that they have been clarified, defined and become managed reliable entities upon which to build applications. While some data will be more suitable to sitting on the cloud, other information may not be – due to reasons such as security concerns and complexity.
In a one-on-one with Beloussov, he told me that there may be various reasons to move to the cloud and that these may differ from company to company depending on circumstances. What he meant was that it is not always about efficiency and saving money through data consolidation; sometimes it is simply about providing power, ease-of-use and simplicity.
Virtual desktop infrastructures (if they become as popular as Parallels would suggest that they might), will no doubt increase the wider awareness of virtualisation principles.
Beloussov rightly pointed to Microsoft's ownership of this application sector and suggested to me that the company's long term strategy for virtualised apps is likely to be the defining point in this space – when it arrives. Apple, he pointed out, is unlikely to provide the same defining guidance for the hosting market, as the company is all about the integration of their own applications with their own brand of hardware.
We covered a lot of ground, but also of particular interest was Beloussov's take on events of the last 12-months at VMware. We discussed not only the reasons behind Diane Greene's exit, but also the fact that VMware's market position has been one where it has always competed with most of its partners. Parallels said Beloussov, does not sit in such a directly competitive position with those other vendors who chose to attend this week's symposium.
Esteemed ZDNet blogger and IT analyst Dan Kusnetzky and I spent some time discussing these issues over a breakfast of maple cured bacon rashers and some fluffy eggs with fresh chives.
Here's what Dan told me as he distilled a few concepts down into one nice bite sized comment:
“The Kusnetzky Group model of virtualisation technology includes seven different types of virtualisation. As one would expect, an organisation's requirements define which of these layers of technology would be helpful and which would not. Furthermore, if an organisation's data centre is made up largely of mainframes and midrange systems, virtualisation technology targeting industry standard systems would be of little use. An example might be a retail firm that uses IBM iSeries as its primary platform to support sales people in its furniture stores. These systems would not be able to make much use of tools from Citrix, Microsoft or VMware. IBM's offerings would be a better choice.”
Dan was not alone in terms of those wanting to share their opinions on the Parallels event. I spoke with Antonio Piraino, a senior analyst from Tier1 Research focused on managed hosting & cloud infrastructure services who was upbeat about the week's engagements and presentations.
Antonio told me, “I thought that the speakers were a big step up not just from last year’s event, but from most events in this space. I think that’s the reason we saw the rapid up-swing in registrants to 1400 odd. The content was focused, relevant and I got the sense that people were really trying to help each others businesses rather than just harbour a hidden sales pitch for the latest and greatest products.”
So you know, having said all of the above – let me point again to the title of this blog posting: “Is virtualisation starting to feel real?” Well, there were conceptual discussions aplenty, but there was also a healthy dose of (it appeared to me) quite realistic and commercially focused discussion.
Directors like Mark Adams from British companies like Cobweb UK were at the show and were talking volubly about the amount of British businesses using hosted services. As another example, our day two keynote came in the form of a presentations from Saugatuck Technology founder and CEO Bill McNee who used his time to host a panel entitled Weathering the Storm: Finding Silver in the Clouds. I'm sorry, but cheesy title yes – and one which I would have used myself if I had thought of it. We're getting down to the ground with the virtual cloud a bit more aren't we?
There's a whole lot more to mention in relation to partners in this space, so I'm going to have another dig through my notes in the morning. But as a closing note:
Top giveaway: Virtualization for Dummies (by AMD) Best show mints: Cloudmark Most overused promo tool: Wii consoles (bring back PacMan please!) Most interesting attendee: Ralph Kreter, general manager of Doctor Web Ltd, Munich