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Virtualization History

Contributed Article by Joseph Hand, Senior Director of Product Strategy, AppAssure Software

Virtualization's roots go back to the 1960s and IBM, where programmer Jim Rymarczyk was deeply involved in the first mainframe virtualization effort. According to a NetworkWorld article, IBM's CP-67 software used partitioning technology to allow many applications to be run at once on a mainframe computer. While its impact was substantial for mainframe users, it took years before a direct descendant of IBM's work came back to life on X86 platforms. In fact the existence of virtualization as a concept went largely unremarked for the nearly two decades of the rise of client/server on x86 platforms. Still, it served as a powerful inspiration for VMware to reviving the concept and apply it to x86 machines.

In the late 1990s, the issues that made caused IBM to application virtualization on its mainframes had begun to impact IT administrators substantially enough for VMware to step in and begin to apply its own virtualization model.  These included low x86-platform server utilization, where perhaps 10-15% of server capacity was used, and rising costs associated with electrical power use, cooling and a fast-growing server and storage footprint.

With increased complexity came expanding administrative costs driven by the need to hire more experienced IT professionals, and the need to carry out a wide variety of tasks, including Windows Server backup and recovery. These actions required more manual intervention in processes than many IT budgets could support. Server maintenance costs, especially those tied to Windows Server backup, were climbing and more personnel were required to work through an increasing number of day-to-day tasks. Just as important were the issues of how to limit the impact of server outages, improve business continuity and create more robust disaster recovery plans. 

VMware addresses the issue

In 1999, VMware introduced virtualization to x86 systems, which VMware points out were not designed for virtualization in the way mainframes were. The problem centered around nearly 20 instructions that could cause application termination or system crash when they were virtualized. VMware addressed this with what it called an adaptive virtualization routine that contained the instructions as they're generated and allows other instructions to be passed through without intervention. With this breakthrough they were first on the market with a product that slowly began to attract attention, then accelerated to the point where by 2008, a significant percentage of companies had begun to virtualize a small portion of their not-business-critical applications, and they began carrying out Windows Server backup on their new virtual machines.

Piling on the bandwagon

By the late 2000s, VMware had attracted quite a bit of attention and they were joined by several other vendors offering virtualization solutions, some with better Windows Server backup solutions than others, though VMware continues to hold steady with nearly a three-quarter share of the hypervisor market. Only Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor has garnered a significant percentage of the rest of the market, followed by Citrix's XenServer. Still, the potential for the market is so big that the competition will continue, augmented in part with a fast-rising investment in the sector by companies like Amazon, Microsoft, MSPs and longtime IT industry players who offer virtualization as part of cloud and offsite computing services. 

Obviously virtualization is here to stay. How do you think it can help your organization, and how does it affect your Windows Server backups, Hyper-V backups or VMware backups? Share your comments below. 

To learn more about keeping your data safe and backup and recovery on virtual machines, visit AppAssure and download a free trial version of Backup and Replication software.

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About the Author

Joseph Hand is the Senior Director of Product Strategy at AppAssure Software, focusing on virtualization for AppAssure's VMware backup and Hyper-V backup and addressing how they can work together to leverage technology to solve today's problems facing the modern day enterprise.

Published Thursday, February 02, 2012 6:30 AM by David Marshall
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