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The new face of virtualization

Beth Schultz | Aug. 24, 2009
From its genesis in x86-based servers, virtualization technology has spread rapidly into storage and the network

FRAMINGHAM, 24 AUGUST 2009 - From its genesis in x86-based servers, virtualization technology has spread rapidly into storage and the network. Today, it's at your desktop, in your processors and memory, and in your switches. It's shaping hardware and software appliances -- heck it's even in your smartphones.

Tom Nolle, CEO of CIMI, a high-tech consulting firm, describes three essential missions for virtualization: as a client technology, as a server technology, and as a network technology. These three areas, he says, are converging around the idea of cloud computing.

On the winding route from that first server virtualization project to the cloud of tomorrow, you never know where virtualization will wind up next. But watching leading-edge enterprises can provide a clue.

Dell builds toward a private cloud

Dell, for example, is well into its third-generation phase of virtualization and is strategizing about the fourth. Virtualization has become the company's main computing platform and a fundamental part of its enterprise infrastructure, as well as having opened a smarter path for growth, says Matt Brooks, senior enterprise architect for the company.

Dell's commitment to virtualization translates into a mindboggling 6,200 virtual machines in use -- roughly 2,500 in production and another 3,700 in test and development.

"Weve gone from a consolidation to a containment focus … . The next stage we see, which we're moving into now, is creating an optimized environment where we push all of our workload needs onto a platform that's managed around aggregate capacity," Brooks says. This applies to data center refreshes or new servers -- virtual or otherwise -- and requires tighter control of how IT manages capacity, he adds.

From there, Brooks continues, Dell can make the leap to an automated data center (otherwise called the real-time infrastructure or a private cloud) in which the physical and virtual environments are managed as one.

"This is about being able to extend the management and computing efficiencies we see with virtualization into the physical environment. A lot of this involves moving the workload back into external storage, the network or the transactional layer," he says. "We'd have a singular provisioning process, whereas today we have a provisioning process -- a very efficient one -- designed around virtualization and another one for the physical platform."

Once workloads move off the server, Dell gains efficiencies and lots more flexibility, Brooks says. "We'd be able to tag a policy specifically to a workload and say, 'This workload, based on this schedule, this service-level agreement or these capacity requirements, needs to consume the entire resources of this server for a certain period of time and then maybe move and join the rest of the virtualized workloads.'"


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