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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

Information, workloads and workspaces

Workload virtualization is one of three next steps that leading-edge enterprises are taking in their move to the 100% virtual data center of the future, says Tony Bishop, CEO of IT consulting firm Adaptivity and onetime overseer of Wachovia's pioneering virtualization initiatives. Information virtualization comes first, with workspace virtualization the result.

With information virtualization, an enterprise is able to assemble a single view, or profile, of a client by bringing together information stored in multiple repositories. "Let's say I have a platinum customer with 12 accounts. I don't want to make that customer go into each account. I want a single profile -- and this is possible with information virtualization," Bishop says.

He points to Composite Software, whose Composite Information Server pulls together and presents flat-file and relational data in this way; and Endeca Technologies, whose Information Access Platform does the same for unstructured content, such as PowerPoint presentations, videos and Word documents. "Information virtualization is going to be big," Bishop predicts. "If I can't get to the information I need, right away, the benefits of virtualization will become limited. You need to do more than virtualize the infrastructure."

The same could be said of the workload. "If I can't move the workload around to where the processing and resources are that best fit what I'm trying to do, then I'm not able to take advantage of the elasticity and fluidity expected of virtualization," Bishop says.

In the case of that platinum customer, IT systems should recognize its requests, then send the workload to the best resources -- physical or virtual -- for meeting the service levels or response times appropriate to that client level. "The business could say, 'I don't care what's going on, platinum customers have to have blink-of-an-eye response times,'" Bishop says. "If you don't virtualize at the workload tier and make sure the workload moves to wherever the best fit is, you're never going to get there."

This represents a shift from today's supply-driven mentality to a demand-driven, service-oriented approach. Getting there requires that enterprises adopt a product such as Appistry CloudIQ Platform (formerly called Enterprise Application Fabric), DataSynapse's FabricServer or IBM WebSphere XTP and build a framework around it, he says.

Virtualizing the workspace is the next logical step, Bishop says. "If you can break the bond of hardwired information and content, and have it so that whenever I ask for something it gets processed [to meet service levels,] then you have the ability to have a virtual extension anywhere."

This goes beyond the desktop virtualization concept talked about today, in that the user need not have a distinct physical PC. A smartphone would suffice, maybe even a TV, Bishops says. "With a single ID, I should be able to travel anywhere and if I can just get to a screen with Internet access, I should be able to have my entire workspace with me -- completely there but virtual."


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