Virtualization Technology News and Information
Business gives virtualization the thumbs up

Quoting from CXO America

Virtualization promises to increase business agility while simultaneously reducing IT costs. Too good to be true? Four industry experts discuss the issues

Demands for increased service and responsiveness, decreasing budgets and the need to maximize the use of physical assets with limited resources are becoming common realities for C- level and IT management executives today. Fortunately, virtualization promises to help enterprises reduce IT costs while simultaneously increasing agility and enabling them to meet changing demands and business priorities. But what do executives need to know about virtualization? CXO asked a panel of experts to give their views…

As President and CEO, Bill Daniel is responsible for the overall leadership and direction of Surgient, including all aspects of strategy and execution. Prior to Surgient, he held multiple senior management positions at Vignette Corporation from 1998-2002, as the company grew from US$3.5-367 million in annual revenues.

David Bieneman started Vizioncore, Inc. in 2002 as a software development company aimed at enhancing Citrix Systems. With over 10 years’ experience in the industry, he is active in architecting new technologies to complement the existing Vizioncore, Inc. solutions and enjoys engaging the user community with these new offerings.

Jeffrey Hibbard is Vice President of Marketing at Ardence and leads all of the company’s marketing initiatives including strategy, product management, product marketing and strategic communications. He has spent 23 years in the enterprise software industry and has extensive engineering, sales and marketing management experience.

Diane Greene is Executive Vice President of EMC Corporation and President of VMware. Greene has led VMware since its inception in 1998, continuing in the role after EMC bought the company in 2004. She has more than 20 years experience in the technology industry, including a stint as CEO of VXtreme. For more on VMware solutions see

CIOs are increasingly being asked to tackle the opposing imperatives of managing costs and increasing computing resources. How can virtualization help them address this twin-pronged challenge?

BD. The inflexibility of traditional computing resources, or physical infrastructure, no longer meets the demands of today’s enterprise. Virtualization is an enabler that allows companies to consolidate and extend physical resources to both reduce costs and increase computing capacity. To date, most companies have deployed virtualization technology in the production datacenter. However, to take full advantage and extend the new level of flexibility afforded by virtualization, companies need new management tools and applications, such as virtual lab management applications in their pre- and post-production environments to enable the effective use of virtualized computing resources across the application delivery lifecycle.

JH. It’s simple. Virtualization enables a breakthrough in IT flexibility. Formerly, the operating system was tightly bound to the hardware, which was tightly bound to storage and the application layer was tightly bound to the entire stack. Any change in one layer forced a change in all the layers above it. With virtualization, IT can now change one layer without changing others. And that obviously reduces work and cost.

But more importantly, this increased flexibility also creates the opportunity to effectively add more computing resource without buying more computers. With solutions like the Ardence Software Streaming Platform, computing assets can now feasibly be provisioned to perform one job and then be completely re-provisioned with a different OS and different application stack to perform a different job on the fly. Any data center that has a hot standby server or stiff service level agreements can benefit from this revolutionary capability. Ardence can actually provision the entire OS, VMs and application stack from bare metal to production in minutes – even seconds and this offers unprecedented agility for both IT and the business.

DB. Virtualization inherently offers lower management costs while leveraging existing computing resources. Having many virtual machines on one physical piece of hardware also offers great flexibility. Virtualization will leverage computing resources that were previously unused and help companies to achieve their goals of maximum return on investment for the computing infrastructure. Historically speaking, one particular area of high cost and low returns is a disaster recovery site. Virtualization of the infrastructure offers an affordable Disaster Recovery site option both in terms of computing resources and management costs. In this scenario, many virtual machines distributed across many virtual servers can all be replicated to a single destination since many virtual machines can be housed on a single physical server. Now companies can afford to replicate many more servers (virtual machines) at a much lower cost point and include servers and applications that were previously not deemed candidates for replication or high availability architectures due to cost.

DG. Adoption of a virtual infrastructure makes several new cost-management strategies possible. For example virtualization provides a uniform way to provision, load balance, and fail over applications, regardless of their underlying operating system or the configuration of the hardware. The virtual infrastructure hides the differences in hardware and encapsulates the operating system in a virtual machine that can then be managed and manipulated.

We’ve also seen virtualization drive utilization of hardware from a pre-virtualization average of around 5-15 percent, up to 60 plus percent. This results in fewer machines to manage, less power and cooling requirements, and less space needed to house them.

It also provides an ability to dynamically allocate resources to applications from a distributed pool of hardware. This further optimizes the utilization, automatically handles unanticipated changes in load, and fixes the problems of static provisioning and the need to size everything for its peak load. This, in effect, increases the available computing resources.

Much of the industry is hailing virtualization as the next big thing for server and storage deployments. So what are the key points that users should be aware of as the hype increases? How can they separate hype from reality to maximize the potential of virtualization technologies?

JH. Ah, yes, there is no free lunch. The advantage of a virtualized environment is that it is so flexible but that flexibility can also become a disadvantage. Companies can easily lose control of the virtualized environment because it is so readily copied and promoted to host environments. This is known as VM or virtualization sprawl.

Scalability is the other key challenge. If an application exceeds the capacity of a server, it makes far more sense to run the application on the physical environment rather than incur the performance penalty of running it on a virtualized environment. This is particularly true of service-oriented deployments such as Citrix or web services or is true of environments that have strict service level agreements that translate to hot standby, business continuity or disaster recovery requirements.

There are solutions that can manage and deliver an image to either a virtualized or physical environment and this unique capability solves both the management and scalability challenges typically found with a virtualization environment. The Ardence Software-Streaming Platform is one example of such an enablement layer. As the size of the enterprise deployment increases the value of such an enablement layer quickly becomes extremely apparent because the complexity of managing a virtualization environment grows disproportional with the size of the deployment.

DG. Virtualization is here to stay and will become a ubiquitous layer on the hardware. People typically first learn about virtualization solutions for one of three reasons: test and development efficiencies, server consolidation or disaster recovery. However, companies that deploy virtualization very often find that as well as saving hardware costs through consolidation, it positively impacts every aspect of I.T operations and lifecycle, from application creation to testing to deployment to ensuring business continuity. So even though the impact of virtualization to-date has already been significant, we are just beginning to explore all the future applicability.

I’d say the key points for companies are that they should really pay close attention to vendor roadmaps and vision. This is an area where companies have to be especially vigilant against vendor lock-in and promote standards wherever possible. Customers should also talk to other customers, start with well planned pilots and proceed from there.

DB. Companies starting on virtualization should look to other companies whom have already deployed the virtual infrastructure for answers to best practices on virtualization. Speaking from experience, some companies will approach the initial installation and design on their own. I believe it really makes sense to consult experience, particularly a similar sized company in the industry, for initial guidance. Following that, consultation with the experts is always a positive and will save many more times the cost of not doing so on the backend. Putting in the tools required to manage the infrastructure from the beginning adds value. Virtualization is an ecosystem and should be managed as such.

One major pitfall to avoid is trying to port over management technologies from the physical server platform to the virtual platform. Many of these technologies may work on the virtual platform as well, but are not designed for the virtual platform and thus can give errant or undesired results. Often the cost of porting these technologies from the physical platform to the virtual platform is prohibitive, as newer technologies, which are built for virtualization, will perform as desired and frequently cost far less.

BD. Virtualization provides tremendous benefits in terms of increasing flexibility and utilization of servers and storage. The dirty secret of virtualization, though, is that turning a single server into multiple virtual servers leads to many more servers that require a new class of workload management applications to control what those virtual servers are doing at any point in time - and for whom.

Virtual lab management applications are solutions that enable organizations to control the massive numbers of virtual machines to deliver needed computing capacity for application development, testing, training, and support, which are critical pre- and post-production activities.

As an industry, we have learned over the past 20 years how technology evolves - there is enabling technology and tools. The evolution of virtualization is no different. Virtualization is a growing enabling technology, and while the time frame of its evolution into full enterprise integration and acceptance may not be predictable, its evolution path certainly must include the existence of application segments like virtual lab management for the solution to be complete. Therefore, virtualization is a great enabling technology, a platform, but is not a complete solution in itself.

And what advantages does desktop virtualization offer? In what ways can it help IT managers regain control of resources whilst maintaining the same user experience?

BD. Desktop virtualization addresses another enterprise problem, the variation among desktop computing hardware systems. The vast variety of desktop configurations that exist has created numerous challenges for enterprise IT support teams in the day-to-day management.

Desktop virtualization, by isolating applications and homogenizing configurations, can enable IT managers to simplify and develop new, scalable processes for supporting desktop deployments in the enterprise. As an example, desktop virtualization allows IT staff to recover more easily from a worm or virus attack by quickly reverting individual infected workstations to a known uninfected desktop configuration that exists in the virtual pool of resources.

DB. Desktop virtualization will eliminate many management needs at the individual workstation level. All session management and application control can be done centrally and maintained within a virtual server to them be used by the virtual desktop. Some applications are licensed by user and hence the more simultaneous users on the application, the more expensive it will be for a company. Centralizing the session management and usage of these licenses will greatly reduce costs as well. The days of patch management and planned deployments of upgrades to hundreds or thousands of desktops are behind us. With a central backend server deployment, virtual desktops will only use the resources it needs and all other resources are available for sharing and therefore, can be used rather than sit idle without access to them as is the case without virtualized desktops.

DG. Desktop virtualization abstracts not only the physical hardware from the user's desktop but also the physical location. User desktops can be located in the datacenter and be remotely accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Unlike physical desktops, these deliver significant advantages. Virtual desktops are always available; virtual desktops are much more secure since all data is kept centralized. Virtual desktops can be managed more efficiently and cheaply than physical desktops. The beauty of it all is that all these I.T benefits can accrue without affecting the end-user experience.

JH. Virtual desktop architectures – like VMware’s Virtual Desktop Initiative, IBM’s Virtual Hosted Client Infrastructure or HP’s Consolidated Client Infrastructure - are all gaining momentum in the market because they offer more security and compliance and ease IT management, yet provide an excellent user experience with minimal latency.

Taking this concept one step further, by using the Ardence Software Streaming Platform in combination with other solutions like those from AppStream and VMWare, it is conceivable that an IT department could reduce the management burden from thousands of unique desktop configurations down to a handful of base configurations. The unique differences of each computer configuration normally resident at the desktop can now be captured in a “personality” repository and then streamed and interlaced with a base image to create the unique virtual desktop at runtime.

The implication is that the operational cost of such a deployment is a fraction of alternative approaches, especially for larger deployments, because the paradigm shifts from managing and backing up each and every virtual desktop to managing a repository of “personalities” that will eventually be applied to a few standard snapshot images.

Business agility is a key concern for C-level executives right now. Does virtualization offer the potential for enhanced enterprise agility? What benefits does it offer in this regard?
. Virtualization can accelerate every stage of the software lifecycle. Developers can build and test applications faster. Even after an application is ready for production, in many organizations there is a lengthy delay until resources can be freed up for deployment to production. Virtualization can cut that time down from weeks and months to days or hours. Once deployed, applications can be provided with the resources needed at a moment's notice. The infrastructure can respond at the speed of the business.

DB. With virtualization, you enable the ability to leverage one piece of hardware for multiple virtual machines. Companies are no longer tied to a physical location or a physical piece of hardware to accomplish objectives. Any new project can now be isolated to a new virtual machine without needing to provision a new piece of hardware and integrating it or isolating it on the network. Enterprises can quickly start new projects as a result. Testing can be done in isolation and versioning can be done more easily with virtual machines. Additionally, operations can also be mobile. From server virtualization to desktop virtualization, all resources can be managed centrally and with far fewer resources both in terms of personnel and in terms of hardware. Merging business units can be completely integrated more rapidly by taking an existing physical environment and moving it to the virtual platform and centrally managing these operations. Disaster recovery scenarios do not involve 100% duplication of physical infrastructure. In fact, with virtualization, companies can now immediately realize the return on investment of a disaster recovery site by using the additional idle resources that would otherwise not be used unless a disaster occurs.

JH. In today’s world, no business can be competitive without supporting systems.
Clearly, in the internet era, change is happening faster and faster and change creates market opportunities for those that can respond the quickest. With virtualization solutions, IT can dramatically shorten the time to deliver the requisite systems to support the business so clearly the business is far better positioned to capitalize on the new market opportunities that it identifies.

BD. Virtualization eliminates the inflexibility that is common to all computing purchases by making it much easier to put servers to work in new configurations and by enabling them to do much more work simultaneously. Enterprise agility requires all resources of an organization to be able to quickly reconfigure existing hardware to execute new processes.

Once you have this ability, though, how do you optimize around it? How do oversee it? This is where virtual lab management comes into play - enabling this ability for continual change in the computing environment to be harnessed for specific business purposes.

One of the key benefits of virtualization technology - and how it's being used today - is to provide operational relief and control to IT personnel who are directly involved in the manual processes of server provisioning, typically in the production environment.

This new level of enterprise agility - enabled via virtual lab management applications - is the ability for business users in pre- and post-production operations - to securely and reliably consume computing resources whenever - and wherever - they're needed, on-demand in a self-service mode for the very first time.

This provides the best of both worlds. IT maintains the central command and control of shared computing resources, while affording teams across the organization the business the ability to self-serve, eliminating IT as a substantial bottleneck for physical provisioning. Once the use of the computing resources is complete, the resources are returned to the main pool and are immediately available for use in another area of the production cycle.

And how easy is it for virtualization technologies to be integrated into the business? What are the implementation challenges here, and how are they being overcome?

DB. Integration and implementation of virtualization in companies is helped greatly with the use of third party management tools, users groups, chat forums, industry events and technical training for support personnel. Secondly, really understanding the components involved that enable the virtual infrastructure so that in a DR mode or capacity expansion project, there is no disruption to production systems will be key to successful deployments of virtualization.

Among other benefits are the technologies created to help manage virtualization and how easy they are to deploy and use. A fundamental principle of the Vizioncore architecture is to be agent-less. The company’s esxRanger for backups and esxCharter for monitoring and esxReplicator for virtual machine replication all have a central point of control. Vizioncore products do not need to be installed on each host server so as changes occur, the products do not need mass updates on each host server, nor do they need to be updated as the host server changes. They are also Windows based and designed so any level administrator without specialized Linux or VMware knowledge can use them.

BD. Like most enterprise software tools, the easiest part of virtualization is getting it installed. The hard part is developing effective new business processes to accomplish the desired goals.

Virtualization can enable businesses to accomplish far more with their computing infrastructure than they ever could before but without the proper processes in place to harness the agility virtualization affords, it can be wasted as well. Businesses, in addition to adopting a virtualization platform, will require solutions that take virtualization to the next level. By extending the benefits of virtualization to the broader enterprise, companies can effectively align their IT operations with business priorities and gain the agility and competitive advantage they need to be leaders in their market.

JH. The beauty of virtualization is that it is a disruptive technology but not disruptive to the business. Typical processes to introduce a virtualization is to snapshot the software stack as it exists on the physical computer and then move it to a host environment that runs on another computer. This allows IT organizations to rollout virtualization with little risk to the business because it is easy to snapshot and validate each system as it is rolled out. As we discussed earlier, the difficult part of the implementation is managing the virtualization sprawl and addressing scalability.

To prevent the sprawl and address the scalability challenges, IT can use a software streaming technology to deliver virtualizations. With software streaming solutions like the one from Ardence, the personality of a given computer is not captured in the snapshot but rather separated out of the snapshot and stored separately in a “personality” database. This way one base image can be reused by hundreds of computers as opposed to maintaining hundreds of images. Via a very slick mechanism, the base image is streamed to a target environment on demand, and then the personality is retrieved from the personality repository and is interlaced into the base image as it is being streamed to the target environment. Using this technique, the software-streaming platform can actually deliver the image with personality interlaced to either a virtual or physical environment.

Separating the core image and the personality provides a breakthrough in management and deliver the image back to either a physical or to a virtual environment provides flexibility to address many other challenges especially the scalability challenges.

DG. It just works.

Read the original article, here.

Published Friday, August 04, 2006 10:13 AM by David Marshall
Filed under:
There are no comments for this post.
To post a comment, you must be a registered user. Registration is free and easy! Sign up now!
<August 2006>