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Catbird: The Future of Virtualization

What do virtualization executives think about 2009?  A VMBlog.com Series Exclusive.

Contributed by Michael Berman, CTO of Catbird

The future of virtualization

“Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.”
-- Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

If you want to predict the future, and you’re not Yoda, the new tool of choice is Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends).

Is Britney back?  See figure 1.

Figure 1 - Britney Spears, CY2008 search trend

 

Will Obama beat McCain?  See figure 2.

Figure 2 - Obama vs. McCain, October 2008

 

Google knows all and sees all.  Now with Google trends we can see the future too.

Prediction #1: Will VMware continue to be the dominate player? 

Yes.  The 800 pound Hypervisor gorilla is still King.  VMware spent the first half of the decade insinuating their product into every engineering lab on the planet.  This investment will continue to pay big dividends in 2009.  Citrix and Microsoft will improve their positions as  viable alternatives,  but with Cisco now a VMware partner,  the VMware juggernaut will not be derailed easily.

In a way,  the biggest threat to VMware is VMware.  With a plethora of free products from the company, and a new push into the v-centric v-cloud, some customers will find their choices v-confusing.

What does Google Trends say about VMware, Xen and Hyper-V?  See figure 3.

Figure 3 - VMware, Xen and Hyper-V 

This graph shows VMware currently has a 30:1 advantage over Hyper-V and about 4:1 over Citrix.

 

Prediction #2: OK, but really, can VMware hold off Microsoft?

Does Steve Ballmer take prisoners?  No. 

Remember Windows 3.0?  Internet Explorer 1.2?  Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is just Microsoft toying with its prey.  In Vegas, never bet against the house.  With over 99% of the virtual machines in the world running a Microsoft OS – Microsoft is the house. 

With a superior product, superb management and a nine-year head-start VMware has another three years of life, four with a well-timed lawsuit.  Ahh, Netscape we used to know you.

Sadly, Google Trends is pessimistic about VMware.  See figure 4.

(This is one prediction I hope I get wrong.)

Figure 4 - Microsoft, VMware and Citrix 

This graph shows Microsoft maintaining a dominant search trend advantage over VMware and Citrix.

 

Prediction #3: Will the economic downturn slow virtualization?

No, not really.  Virtualization, and the green data center movement it spearheads, are the best way for CIO’s to cut costs and improve service delivery.  Like the development of the first mass-market PC by IBM, mass-market virtualization is the one trend that will continue upward despite the effects of a recession.

We can expect the big hurt to occur in two areas:
1. Infrastructure upgrades not tied to virtualization
2. Head count reduction

Most of the Global 500 and many large public organizations invested in VMware’s enterprise licensing program in 2008.  With millions of dollars of sunk licensing costs, the good news is we can expect these projects to roll forward unabated.  The bad news?  Painful cuts are inevitable and many of these projects will suffer because of a failure of follow-up investment in automation, management and security tools.

The only IT folks with job security are the people with VCP after their name.  The rest of us just became redundant.  Hey VCP-guy, good luck making it all work by yourself!  (Hint: Watch out for prediction #4)

Google Trends shows VMware beating outsourcing and layoffs by a wide margin.  See figure 5.
 

Figure 5 - VMware vs. outsourcing and layoffs

 

Prediction #4: Will the virtualization market consolidate further?

Yes.  I predict IBM and HP will make acquisitions to strengthen their position.  VMware and Microsoft will make purchases to enhance their feature list and positioning.  Buying technology is obviously Microsoft’s best strategy at the moment.

Google Trends says “watch Parallels.”  See figure 6.
 

Figure 6 - Search trend for Parallels 

Prediction #5: Will Chris Hoff and Simon Crosby bury the hatchet?

Yes, philosophically, but no because the feud is great copy.  This is really about the role of virtualization platform vendors in providing the tools necessary for secure deployment, configuration and management.

The market is clearly demanding that the platform vendors openly discuss the security and compliance implications of virtualization and, in turn, do more to build security in from the start.  We should expect more cross-platform standards like OVF, specifically designed to support management and security across diverse Hypervisor platforms.

Despite aggressive marketing in the blogosphere, Google Trends shows no significant change coming for Sumo.  See figure 7.
 

Figure 7 - Search trend for Sumo

Prediction #6: Will virtualization security become a priority?

Forget about it – No.  For most VMware deployments, IT groups will continue to forget about security.  Making virtualized servers a fat target for criminals and disgruntled former employees with a grudge against VCP-guy.  Sorry VCP-guy, I guess you’re wearing a red shirt next year.

The exceptions will be highly regulated organizations or agencies in the financial, medical or federal markets.  These institutions are risk-averse and too canny to believe the security hype coming from the virtualization platform vendors.  I predict we will see real adoption of virtualization security and increased virtualization ROI as this will allow large organizations to virtualize more workloads than originally planned.

We can also look for a new Cyber-security initiative to come out of the Obama administration.  There is widespread recognition that current regulations like FISMA, SOX 404, HIPAA and the like are not sufficiently proscriptive and fail to specify effective metrics for determining compliance with technical controls.

However, I do not think we will see regulations because they are a good idea.  Regulating hedge funds and credit default swaps was a good idea.

I predict we will get new regulations only because of a new cyber-emergency.  In 2009, I see the perfect storm of economic conditions, social networking, broadband and a *** in the data center armor – virtualization.  Whether by a criminal gang operating with an inside man or a clever hack involving abuse of privilege, 2009 will be a growth year for cyber-crime and virtualized servers will be the softest target in the data center.

So far Google Trends says, “Ask again later.” 

See figure 8.
 

Figure 8 - VMware vs. Hacking search trend

About the Author

Michael Berman is the CTO of Catbird, with over 20 years experience in system engineering, architecture, design and implementation of secure computing.  His  experience includes implementation of C2 UNIX; Fortune 100 enterprise security; and expert support in the prosecution of computer crimes. Mr. Berman received his BA in Computer and Information Sciences from the University of California Santa Cruz. He is a Certified Information Security Systems Professional and a member of the SF Electronic Crimes Task Force and High-Tech Crime Investigation Association.

Published Tuesday, December 16, 2008 8:15 PM by David Marshall
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