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Sun Microsystems: Virtualization Trends in 2009

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

Jim McHugh is vice president, Datacenter Software Marketing, Sun Microsystems 

Virtualization Trends in 2009

Businesses already face a wide range of challenges going into 2009. While cost-cutting moves may dominate the headlines, many companies will be focusing on making wise investments that both reduce costs and enable them to better leverage technology. Not surprisingly, Gartner recently ranked virtualization as the #1 strategic technology for 2009. But while more and more companies are moving toward virtualized technology, there are a number of trends that will affect that transition and the solutions that businesses choose.

  • Mergers and acquisitions. In the next year, the economic downturn will likely result in a number of stronger companies taking advantage of opportunities to buy weaker businesses. Whenever different companies merge together, there are ample opportunities for consolidation and lowering of costs by eliminating redundant services and streamlining disparate technologies.While on the surface this may appear to mean that these larger businesses will require fewer servers, many will be looking to virtualize the servers in their datacenters to have fewer physical machines to manage, power, and cool. By moving from a large quantity of physical servers to fewer physical servers but a larger number of virtualized servers, companies can simplify their operations, lower the costs of power and cooling, and reduce the size of their datacenter. However, they will face the challenge of maintaining and managing those virtual servers, which can add significant complexity.
  • Cutting costs. Businesses will likely re-examine the IT assets they currently have and look for ways to more fully take advantage of those capabilities. High performance, reliability, and scalability will always be key, but we'll also continue to see developers and start-ups building on open source offerings because it is available without barriers and offers access to source code, and we'll see development teams in companies large and small bring in open-source solutions to meet business requirements at minimal cost.

In 2009, organizations may consider putting datacenter refreshes and expansions on hold. However, there are tremendous opportunities to cut costs in the long run by making minor investments in virtualization over the next year. For example, when an environment is virtualized, it is much easier to move from an older, slow system to a new system; companies that have virtualized existing servers can quickly adjust the location of their applications when new hardware does become available or as business conditions change.

  • More choice. Over the next year, we'll continue to see more and more suppliers seriously competing in the virtualization space, bringing more sophisticated products to market and offering businesses more choice. The vast majority of organizations I talk with don't want to be dependent on a single company's virtualization technology or approach; in fact, they're looking for products that can interoperate. Companies also continue to prefer heterogeneous datacenters running multiple operating systems. This demand for standards-based solutions will continue as businesses look for ways to consolidate datacenters while minimizing the labor involved in deployment and management.
  • Virtualization adds management complexity. Consolidating servers is only the first step to getting the advantages of a virtualized environment, and companies will realize that it's just as important to roll out management tools that address both the virtual and physical datacenter. Without the right management tools, virtualization can easily become more labor-intensive, with slower roll-outs of services and higher operational costs.
  • Stretching virtualization across the datacenter. There will be a growing recognition among businesses that virtualization cannot be limited to x86 environments. Companies will want to virtualize and manage their entire datacenter, and there will be virtualization management tools available that encompass both x86 and UNIX-based machines.
  • Virtualized and open storage. With ever-expanding data and increasing regulatory constraints on how long data must be preserved, companies will review how they handle data storage and disaster recovery. Storage used to be local, but increasingly multiple virtual machines are on a single server. Virtualizing storage (with virtual machines using virtual disks), making storage virtualization cheaper, more open, and much more accessible, and combining general-purpose compute resources and open source operating systems and virtualization solutions will be key to the successful ROI in consolidation and virtualization projects. In the near future, I think we'll see the coming together of virtualization, storage, management tools, and more efficient hardware to provide organizations with much greater flexibility – if these different components are interoperable.
  • Cloud computing. In the next year, there will be a growing trend of businesses taking advantage of cloud computing, tapping the resources of a remote, third-party infrastructure as they need it and being able to dynamically increase their compute capacity to match their fluctuating IT demands. While people will grow more confident in the security of cloud computing, we're not likely to see companies outsourcing mission-critical applications in the short term. But for businesses that need massive scalability with strong security, cloud computing will become an increasingly attractive option.
  • Virtualizing desktops. Virtualizing servers is important, but there are far more desktops than servers -- and because they are dispersed, desktops are even harder to manage effectively. To attack this problem, companies are turning to virtualization to provide a desktop environment that is centralized in the datacenter. The potential of virtualizing desktops is enormous, and I think more companies will see the value in terms of power savings, ease of management, and increased flexibility and employee mobility. Businesses will continue to be vested in keeping their data secure and should look for solutions that can provide data security both at the device level and on the servers. But because companies can expand into desktop virtualization gradually, it will fit the spending patterns of organizations large and small.

While doing more with less may well be the mantra of business in 2009, wise investments in virtualization now can help companies quickly enjoy greater efficiency while also building a strong foundation for future growth.

About Jim McHugh

Jim McHugh is vice president, Datacenter Software Marketing, Sun Microsystems, responsible for managing Sun's Solaris, OpenSolaris, xVM, and Open Storage software businesses.  Click for more information.

Published Monday, December 08, 2008 5:57 AM by David Marshall
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