Several years ago, we began using virtualization technologies as means to test servers and use resources more effectively. When VMware became a hypervisor, very few vendors actually supported a virtual infrastructure. So in many organizations, virtualization was relegated to the classroom and development environments.
But soon administrators saw that server resources were being wasted dramatically and that virtualization was a way to curtail that, making it easier to consolidate servers and boost resource utilization. And with that, the pressure rose on vendors to support a virtual state. From there, server virtualization made its way into almost all data center environments as more organizations adopted the technology to help align their business needs.
Now – we’ve entered the next frontier ...
We have better servers, more bandwidth, and greater amounts of resources to work with. To put it in perspective, Tilera recently released their 72-core, GX-72 processor. The GX-72 is a 64-bit system-on-chip (SoC) equipped with 72 processing cores, 4 DDR memory controllers and a big-time emphasis on I/O. This type of technology now allows administrators to create a "hyper-connected" infrastructure with focus on improving performance and removing bottlenecks.
We’re way beyond simple server virtualization and are exploring new avenues to make virtualization an even more powerful platform. Let’s take a look at some of these technologies.
- Application Virtualization. If we can virtualize a server, why not apps? The popularity of products like XenApp and ThinApp continues to increase. Administrators are able to stream or deliver applications to the end user without actually deploying them at the user premises. This sort of control and manageability makes application virtualization very plausible. In fact, many of the big Fortune 500 organizations have already deployed some type of application virtualization.
- End-point Virtualization. The conversation here isn’t only around virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI). Many organizations are now redefining how they see the end-point and how they can best utilize those resources. Often referred to as hardware abstraction, the end-point has changed from a big PC to thin and zero computing clients. These devices are now adopting a rip-and-replace methodology and will soon be breaking the $100 barrier. This means that all administration is done at the data center level and that the end-point is becoming an easier to manage.
- Network Virtualization. Also known as software-defined networks (SDN), network virtualization has allowed the administrator much greater control over a network infrastructure. Where one physical NIC had its limitations, new technologies allow for numerous virtual networking designations on a corporate network.
- Security Virtualization. Hardened physical appliances aside, more organizations have deployed security platforms on top of a virtual machine (VM). The flexibility to clone security appliances, place them at various points within the organization and assign specific functions to them makes security virtualization very appealing. Imagine having a security appliance VM only doing data-loss prevention (DLP) or intrusion prevention/detection services (IPS/IDS). This type of deployment can be very strategic and beneficial.
- User Virtualization. With IT consumerization and BYOD making its presence felt, more organizations are looking for ways to abstract the user layer from devices, applications and end-points. And so, user virtualization was born. Solutions from AppSense, RES and LiquidWare all provide a way for a user to transfer their personalized settings from application to application and from platform to platform. Basically, users are able to carry their settings with them as they migrate from various systems and applications.
- Storage Virtualization. Storage can be pricey – so why not maximize efficiency? A single storage controller can be logically carved up so well, that they appear to be their own standalone units to the administrator. Using storage more efficiently is on the front page of many project lists. Controller multi-tenancy is just one example of how storage virtualization plays a role in today’s IT world.
- Server Virtualization. This stays on the list only because server virtualization continues to evolve and expand. With entire platforms being designed for server virtualization, more emphasis is being placed on how to better use a virtual environment. There continues to be a need for virtualizing the server and to better incorporate virtualization efficiencies into the modern data center. In fact, the server virtualization market is beginning to heat up again. Adoption rates for Microsoft’s Server 2012 Hyper-V infrastructure continue to rise. More organizations are now revisiting their virtual server infrastructure than ever before. With server density increasing, and new types of platforms becoming available, it won’t be surprising to see even more innovation around server virtualization.
The list will most likely grow as more environments seek ways to be even more efficient. With advanced virtualization technologies, organizations can begin to grow more organically. Without having to deploy massive amounts of infrastructure at a new site or location, companies can design an IT platform around a "business-in-a-box'" mentality. In creating such an agile environment, entire data centers can be provisioned quickly to help a company stay ahead of its competition. Already, virtualization technologies are helping many businesses cut costs, regain control, and allow for greater growth with their infrastructure. Moving forward, virtual platforms will only continue to expand as they further help shape the structure of the business IT environment, the overall technological landscape, and the future of cloud computing.