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Server virtualization trends to expect in 2014

Vendors released many important products and features over the last year, but what's in store for server virtualization trends in 2014?

Like the year before, 2013 didn't disappoint when it came to new virtualization technology. Microsoft continued to close the gap with VMware. Not to be outdone, VMware released a few eye-catching products, such as NSX and VSAN, which further develop its vision for a software-defined data center. There were also a handful of notable emerging vendors, offering unique third-party approaches to virtualization pain points.

If recent history is any indication, we're in for another whirlwind year in 2014. This time around, we're keeping our Advisory Board members honest, asking them to evaluate their predictions from last year and share what they're expecting for server virtualization trends in 2014. If you think you can see the future any better, let us know what you expect in the comments below.

Christian Mohn, EVRY Consulting

'Tis the season for predicting server virtualization trends. Last year, if I had predicted we would make more predictions, at least I would have gotten that part right. I probably jumped the gun a bit last year, predicting migration of workloads between disparate hypervisors. In my defense, some tools have emerged, like NetApp's Shift, that might, in time, let you move back and forth between hypervisors.

Anyway, no need to spend time looking back at previous failed predictions. It's time to make some new ones that you can hold against me when 2014 ends.

I think VMware VSAN will make a splash, depending on how it's priced and packaged. If VMware plays this one right, it will be a very interesting option for a lot of customers when their next storage refresh comes around. In many cases it might even accelerate the refresh rate, as it could serve as an add-on to existing storage and coexist without a massive rip-and-replace strategy. The same goes for "local-to-server" flash-based acceleration products, like PernixData FVP and FusionIO's suite of products.

VMware and Cisco will continue as "frenemies," where VMware NSX and Cisco ACI will battle it out in many large joint accounts. The software-defined networking market will continue to evolve, and a lot of third parties are joining the party (pun intended) with their integrations.

Automation will be big in 2014, and perhaps the often talked about private cloud scenario will finally start to materialize in small and medium-sized businesses. Most IT admins really want to offer that kind of scalability to their internal customers, but have been unable to do so. Next year might just be the year that more businesses take the step into the cloud era, and perhaps the cloud buzzword will finally have some merit beyond the largest enterprises.

In the end, I also need to offer some obligatory no-brainer predictions: VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V will continue to dominate the server virtualization market. It will (again) be the year of VDI, and by the end of 2014, we will make more failed predictions for 2015. Of course, like last year, I would like flying cars, but as even delivery drones seem unlikely, I'll hold back on that prediction. Perhaps we'll finally see them in 2015.

Jason Helmick, Concentrated Technology LLC

 The hybrid cloud hasn't moved as fast as I expected, but having the ability to scale off-premises for performance and disaster recovery, and scale back to on-premises when desired, won't be ignored in 2014. It's too easy, too cost effective and too smart a direction.

Microsoft and VMware will continue their battle for world dominance -- Rudolph could have made that prediction. By the end of the year we won't call either the victor, but IT pros will benefit from the competition.

VMworld was buzzing with new advances in network and storage virtualization and I bet IT pros are going to spend some very enjoyable time in 2014 utilizing those new capabilities. Microsoft is getting both small and large companies into Office 365 (specifically Exchange Online), removing the hassle and expense of on-premises messaging solutions. As an Exchange implementation expert, my days are numbered, since 2014 will see a massive migration to Office 365.

One prediction I'm confident making is that cross-platform virtualization  management is a requirement for 2014. As Microsoft nibbles at VMware's heels (and maybe its holiday cookies), Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager are entering your network. Even die-hard VMware supporters are finding small pockets of departmental virtualization and the occasional non-mission critical server on Hyper-V. For the Microsoft hardliners, you are not going to keep VMware -- still the leader in virtualization -- out of your network. This is a cross-platform world, and we need to embrace it.

In 2014, make cross-platform management your holiday present to yourself, and you won't regret it. If you're a PowerShell expert, you already have your cross-platform management solution. If not, then take a close look at the graphical management capabilities that both Microsoft and VMware offer. You should pick your favorite, not based on vendor bias, but on its capability to manage the other platform.

Be nimble and learn everything you can about the expanding universe of cloud and server virtualization trends, because it's growing fast. I'm predicting that if an IT pro can't manage it all, they're going to find coal in their stocking next year.

Oh, and I'm happy to say that we did get our Twinkies back! 

Maish Saidel-Keesing, Cisco Video Technologies Israel

Going over my previous predictions, I was actually taken aback by how accurate they were. So this is what I think will happen in the virtualization and cloud world this year:

  • VMware will move in the direction of pushing VSAN as a replacement or alternative to traditional storage arrays. The product will be generally available (currently it is in beta) sometime around VMworld 2014.
  • VMware NSX will not be widely adopted in 2014. It requires too much of a change in the mindset of most organizations for them to adjust.
  • OpenStack will still be a hot topic, and VMware will continue trying to control the exodus of customers from vCloud by contributing to the community and trying to steer it in the correct direction.
  • I would keep a close eye on a potential Pivotal, EMC and VMware partnership -- perhaps the stack of the future.
  • Hyper-V will continue to gain market share from VMware over the coming year.
  • Amazon Web Service will continue to be the de facto public cloud, Google Compute Engine will start gaining traction and vCloud Hybrid Service will make a step into the market, but will not gain much traction.

Will my predictions for server virtualization trends come true? Who knows, but we'll be sure to look back at the end of 2014.

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