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How virtualisation is lifting us to the cloud

David Cauthron | July 14, 2014
Server virtualisation has been a huge win for the data center. Nimboxx CTO David Cauthron explains how the next phase will deliver dramatic benefits in the cloud

A company called Qumranet also began to include virtualization infrastructure in the Linux kernel -- called Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) -- and started using the QEMU facility to host virtual machines. Microsoft even eventually got into the game with the release of Hyper-V in 2008.

A new industry is born
When virtualization essentially became "free" -- or at least accessible without expensive licensing fees -- new use cases came to light. Specifically, Amazon began to use the Xen platform to rent some of its excess computing capacity to third-party customers. Through their APIs they kicked off the revolution of elastic cloud computing, where the applications themselves could self-provision resources to fit their workloads.

Today, open source hypervisors have matured and become pervasive in cloud computing. Enterprises are venturing beyond VMware, looking to architectures that use a KVM or Xen hypervisor. These efforts are less about controlling costs and more about leveraging the elastic nature of cloud computing and the standards being built on these open source alternatives.

The future: High-performance elastic infrastructures
With the commoditization of the hypervisor, innovation is now focused on the private/public cloud hardware architectures and software ecosystems that surround them: storage architectures, software-defined networking, intelligent and autonomous orchestration, and application APIs.

Legacy server applications, which have been conveniently containerized into virtual machines, are slowly retiring to give way to elastic, self-defining cloud applications that truly are the future of computing — although both will operate side by side for some time.

Going forward, the way in which IT shops will react to the commoditization of virtualization can categorized as follows:

  • Status quo: Change can be hard, and some organizations will find comfort deploying the same solutions they've been deploying for years. This means living with storage and management architectures that are 20 to 25 years old. It also means continuing to pay for hypervisor licenses, being locked into virtualization platforms designed for legacy applications, and lacking a path to support elastic cloud applications on premises.
  • Public cloud: This removes the burden of managing your own infrastructure. However, the public cloud is probably not the best place to run legacy server applications that require dedicated resources and enhanced security. In addition, while public cloud resources can be cost effective initially, at scale the recurring costs can make in-house capital investment seem more attractive by comparison.
  • Cloud frameworks: This includes toolkit options like OpenStack, which is an excellent open source framework for true cloud computing. Companies like Rackspace can make it work at scale. However, the number of IT shops that can actually build and manage an OpenStack deployment is very small.
  • Hyperconverged infrastructure: Companies like Nimboxx are delivering turnkey solutions that offer the same elastic cloud benefits as frameworks and the workflows to support legacy applications in single, modular appliance. These data-center-in-a-box solutions allow companies to start small and scale out in minimal increments. They also serve as a bridge between legacy applications and elastic cloud applications.


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