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Server virtualization trends will de-emphasize hypervisor in 2016

Now that the door has closed on 2015, our advisory board experts weigh in on server virtualization trends and offer predictions for what they expect in 2016.

Dell announced its planned acquisition of EMC -- one of the largest tech mergers in history -- for the last few months of 2015; it's fair to say 2015 went out with a bang. While it's still a bit too early to say what the deal means for VMware, it's clear that server virtualization has reached a milestone. Containers and maturing cloud computing offerings have begun to steal the spotlight from hypervisors and virtualization technologies. In fact, it's quite possible we'll look back on 2015 as the year in which the hypervisor finally become a commodity.

Continuing a New Year tradition, this month we're asking our Advisory Board members to look back at last year's server virtualization trends and share their predictions for 2016. Let us know what you think and share your own predications for 2016 in the comments below.

Brian Kirsch, Milwaukee Area Technical College

As another year passes, the focus on the hypervisor continues to fade. It's not that the hypervisor is being replaced, but the light will shine brighter on the ecosystem around virtualization rather than virtualization itself. Gone are the days of the monster VM bragging rights, as the focus has shifted to the portability, management and automation aspects. VMware's EVO line of hyper-converged infrastructure products continues to struggle, while Nutanix charges ahead. As Nutanix expands it partnerships with others outside of Dell, look for VMware/EMC to launch a Dell-branded EVO line if they want to stay in the hyper-converged market. With Dell's server background and its Nutanix experience, look for an updated EVO platform to be the jewel that VMware expected it to be.

A lot of the focus in the last months of 2015 was around software-defined networking (SDN) and containers; look for a much bigger helping of the same in 2016. DevOps is taking over the data center and the IT world has a very savvy client to satisfy. While the containers continue to take over the data center, other efforts, such as OpenStack, have slowed a bit. This doesn't mean it's going away, only that containers will continue to be the focal point for 2016. The surprise guest to the container table for 2016 will be the Microsoft Nano Server. While it is still technically in preview, the possibilities could be staggering if Microsoft executes. As it stands now, Nano Server has limited ability, no .Net Framework support or remote PowerShell management. Server Core became a lot more useful as the application support grew and remote graphical user interface-based tools were released; only time will tell if the same will hold true for Nano Server in 2016.

Speaking of Microsoft, it is in need of some help in the Hyper-V networking space if it is going to remain competitive. Cisco, with its ACI technology, has always seemed to be more focused on holding onto its massive data center hardware ecosystem rather than advancing SDN. A Cisco partnership with Microsoft for Hyper-V networking could offer a viable challenger against the vSphere and NSX platform. Cisco could enter the hyper-converged race, but looking at VMware's rocky start with EVO, I hope it will sit that race out.

As details of Dell's purchase of EMC continue to flesh out, a big question will be whether VMware will remain a disruptive force or settle into an established player. Dell may have that calming effect, even as it trys to stay hands off. Additionally, for 2016, expect the small and midsize business market will continue to be overlooked in terms of product offerings, licensing and costs. Why break that trend?

Maish Saidel-Keesing, Cisco Video Technologies Israel

Looking at my predictions for last year, I think that I was quite accurate. But, as I always say, the only one who knows exactly what will happen in the future will usually not be the one to tell you.

This year will be the year where we begin to stop talking about server virtualization trends and start to talk only about the cloud. I think the industry has come of age. We are now at a point where cloud is the norm. Everyone will be using some form of the cloud, be it private, public or hybrid. Perhaps next year's predictions will come from the members of the Cloud Technologies Advisory Board?

I think 2016 will also mark the beginning of the container explosion. The number of startups around containers will rise, the ecosystem will grow, and the technological capabilities of containers will grow -- further expanding its growth and adoption in the market.

The one thing I cannot predict is how the Dell-EMC merger will affect the market. I think it will be more than a year until we can say if this acquisition will have changed the market and playing field.

One thing I can say for sure is that 2016 will be an interesting year -- a year that I would advise everyone to learn new things and expand their horizons.

The landscape changes all the time, and we all have to change with it.

Rob McShinsky, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

This year will continue to progress much like 2015, and that should be something that excites you. On the hypervisor front, Hyper-V will continue to increase market share slowly. With new releases of Windows Server 2016 -- and ESXi 6 not adding significant features -- the hypervisor wars will continue to die down, as they have reached feature parity. Vendor support for Hyper-V and VMware will continue to increase.

Hypervisor wars already have changed to the rhetoric of who has the best private, hybrid and now public cloud offering. Cloud vendors with pathways from on-site to public cloud will increase market share in 2016. Price and ease of management will drive more adoption of private infrastructure as a service.

Other technologies -- which are not directly related to server virtualization trends -- will continue to grow and act as enabling technologies. Two hardware-based technologies that I believe will become mainstream in 2016 are solid-state drive (SSD) storage and hyper-converged infrastructure. SSD disks, which have been around for several years, have reached a point where price and capacity make them realistic and valuable investments.

As virtualization continues to become the de facto infrastructure, the core hardware platform driving data centers becomes critical in providing performance and redundancy. I see hyper-converged technologies maturing and becoming the base hardware platform for many medium to large organizations. The entrance of big hardware vendors, like HP and Dell, into the mix competing with newer vendors shows that there is a perceived market grab in this area.

2016 wildcards

Containers have seen lot of hype, but little practical implementation. Windows containers on hardware and Hyper-V containers will be talked about, but meaningful use cases -- as well as broad adoption - will still be limited for 2016.

Increased cyber security concerns will result in a slowdown of cloud adoption. You will also start to hear about the use of virtual Trusted Platform Module chips and more security features used to protect virtual infrastructures.

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This was first published in January 2016

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