Conversations around Virtualization in the second half of 2007 reminded me a lot of that once new term “The Internet” circa 1997. a TV sketch portrayed a host showing a guest around the house and as they pass through the room he explains “this is our living room, we have two internets, one behind the sofa and the other above the TV. this is our kitchen and there is internet right by the fridge and one above the oven. of course there is also one in the restroom and one in each bedroom” finally the guest stops her to ask her if she has any idea what the internet is to which she finally admits “not at all”.
a lot of conversations about virtualization sounds just like that, with people going and on about how virtualization is a strategic shift in the data center and such and how they have two of it everywhere but without ever explaining why and how.
so what is virtualization anyway? – to put in simple words, virtualization is the ability to separate the logical from the physical. bringing this definition down form the religious sphere, virtualization is about making one physical entity appear as multiple logical ones or multiple physical entities seem like one logical entity. the first type is one that includes server virtualization by placing a hypervisor that allows to run multiple OS environments in one physical server and has made a second coming since 2000 by VMware but has been around back in the good ole’ mainframe days. the second type of virtualization has actually been around the data center also since the mid 90’s as part of the network functionality at first and more recently by application switches (most commonly referred to as load balancers or application delivery controllers).
so looking beyond the brief history of virtualization forward, what we are going to see in 2008 will mostly be driven by the move of virtualization from development and lab areas to production environments. as this shift happens, we will see a commoditization of the hypervisor and a climb up the stack to allow virtualization to address the needs of production applications.
while this might come as a shock to a lot of people, the future of virtualization is closely tied to loosely coupled applications (mostly placed under that vague SOA umbrella which we will touch in the next post). that’s right, as in all previous shifts in infrastructure, it will be the application driving it forward.
to make it short, the dynamic needs of the business are driving a more dynamic environment at the application level which requires more real-time adaptability at the infrastructure. in fact, it requires a business policy driven infrastructure. a lot of small moving virtual components that shrink and grow based on business needs and can be moved around dynamically between physical machines and data centers seamlessly.
this means 3 things will happen this year in regards to virtualization:
1. moving away from the silo approach of treating server virtualization and network virtualization as two different things into a unified approach that synchronizes both into what will be just application infrastructure.
2. creation of a management tier that allows to link the infrastructure resources to the application and business needs
3. data center automation will become a must (reader beware – shameless plug to follow) – at the current pace of change in at the application level, code updates daily, demand for each application service and modules changes daily, unpredictably and most often, exponentially. manual operations to adjust to such changes are not only non-scalable cost wise, they are impossible to tune accurately with existing trial and error methodologies. the only way to turn those expensive lights out in the data center is to automate and automate the application infrastructure in real-time and based on service level policies.
bottom line – be on the lookout for the rise of Service Oriented Infrastructure built out of server virtualization coupled with network virtualization and orchestrated by an application aware automation tier that is able to take service level policies from the business and translate that to infrastructure changes.
2008 is all about the virtualization eco-system.