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The Virtual Machinist: Virtualization trends in 2007

Today what we call server virtualization is a compelling technology, quickly pervading worldwide data centers with the promise of cost-savings and more efficient management.

While this is true, there are a lot of factors which concurrently reduce the benefits of server virtualization: high starting costs for hardware, complexity and discrepancies in software licensing, lack of support, lack of experienced professionals and training and lack of tools able to address long-term issues.

Server virtualization is a revolutionary technology, for sure, but it's still very immature in several aspects. I think the shortcomings listed above will drive future market trends.

First of all SANs (Storage Area Networks) will become a mandatory companion for virtualization, obliging even smaller companies to purchase network storage equipment. Some, however, will fall back to cheaper Network Attached Storage, but only for very small projects.

Surge in SMB virtualization coming

Expect the beginning of a no-holds-barred battle for the SMB virtualization market dominance this year. Wars of words and prices will accompany the launch of the  new Windows hypervisor, codenamed Viridian, late this year. VMware, Microsoft and XenSource/Virtual Iron will be the main contenders. The SMB market has been slower to adopt virtualization, due to too-high start-up prices. Smaller companies in the coming months.

-A. Perilli

To reduce costs and be ready to scale up, cheaper iSCSI models with modular architectures will be the preferred choice.

At the same time virtualization will drive sales of high-density multi-core CPUs, which leads to higher consolidation ratios. A single eight-core host will easily accommodate 32 virtual machines on average, which is more than enough to build a complete datacenter for many SMBs.

Get ready for overkill: Intel is working on an 80-core prototype, available in production within five years.

In this scenario of rapid advances, hardware will be more redundant and reliable than ever, obliging customers to buy more expensive hosts with each physical component doubled, including motherboard and CPU.

Looking beyond the hardware scene, this year vendors will start to satisfy a moderate demand for enhanced disaster recovery capabilities in virtualization platforms. This is good news for those running enterprise data centers with severe high-availability requirements.

In the coming year, more and more companies will want traditional IT solutions to be supported in virtualization scenarios. Also, demand for application virtualization solutions will increase. These changes will bring demands for software houses to reconsider their support and licensing models and will push the evolution of licenses onto yet another new path. I think that usage tracking of physical resources is the best way to go.

Anyway, changing licensing models will take lot of time and there is almost no chance for a neat, new model to appear this year.

Going further on the software side, the most compelling issue customers will face will be management of hundreds, even thousands, of virtual machines (VMs). Already, some vendors are offering data center automation tools to streamline VM management. Those first out of the gate with products will have a chance to be very successful, especially later in 2007 when VM sprawl begins to be a problem for early adopters. Expect to see introductions of many virtualization management tools this year.

All in all, server virtualization is a technology doomed to success.

Look for excitement on the client side. The application virtualization market will start growing in the second half of the year after Microsoft, Citrix and Symantec will attempt to streamline application distribution by tweaking and regurgitating products acquired during 2006.

About the author: Alessandro Perilli, a self-described server virtualization evangelist, launched his influential virtualization.info blog in 2003. He is an IT security and virtualization analyst, book author, conference speaker and corporate trainer. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for security technologies and the certifications he holds include Certified Information Systems Security Professional; Microsoft Certified Trainer; Microsoft Certified System Engineer with Security competency; CompTIA Linux+; Check Point Certified Security Instructor; Check Point Certified System Expert+; Cisco Certified Network Associate; Citrix Metaframe XP Certified Administrator.

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