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Three Themes for Virtualization in 2009

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

Contributed by Simon Crosby, Chief Technology Officer, Virtualization and Management Division, Citrix

Three Themes for Virtualization in 2009

I’ve been surprised by the recent negative bias in the virtualization press.  Since VMworld 2008 (a remarkable week in which amongst other - positive - virtualization news VMware’s stock dropped below its IPO price as the market tanked), the tech press has collectively bemoaned the “pitfalls of virtualization.”  Alessandro Perrilli, the tireless and talented blogger behind, first documented this sudden trend - one which is singularly contradicted by the incredible interest in virtualization solutions that has arisen specifically as a result of the downturn.  After all, why buy a new server when there’s probably room enough for a new VM on a server you’ve already bought, or when you can spin up a Xen VM in Amazon EC2 for as little as $0.10 per VM hour? 

Gartner recently published data from searches on for “virtualization” that shows a massive spike in interest directly correlated to the timelines of the economic crunch.  This is borne out in the customer visits I’ve been making, and the meetings I’ve had with our channel partners.  From what I can see, the press ought to cheer up a bit. There has never been a better time to virtualize because the ROI is so clear and immediate, and because customers have never before had a choice of affordable solutions. XenServer 5, released at the start of Q4, is winning enterprise customers based on our per-server pricing, ease of use, and powerful feature set.  But it isn’t the only cost effective way to virtualize – Xen is everywhere, and Hyper-V is finally a reality.

But to virtualize you need a server, right?  Wrong. Permit me to encourage you to use virtualization on servers that you don’t even have to buy – in IT infrastructure clouds priced by the VM hour.  After all, why buy an additional server when renting a virtual one will do?

As we head into 2009, then, here are a few ideas to improve your bottom line: First, adopt the cloud where it makes sense to do so: Xen is everywhere (approaching 20 percent share of virtualized server sockets in enterprises, according to Yankee and IDC) and near 100 percent share in clouds.  Before Xen the concept of IT clouds was unimaginable.  But with a free, high performance, secure hypervisor vendors like Amazon can offer CPU cycles at bargain basement prices.  So go ahead and use it – the community built it for you to use, and no enterprise IT infrastructure can match the economics of a massive, flat, open source-powered IT infrastructure cloud.  Put your next non-mission critical app up in the cloud. The price will surely please your boss. Second, build your own cloud to take advantage of the savings from automation, greater agility and enhanced security of an IT environment in which users are consumers of IT resources “priced” on the basis of consumption. Expect your IT budget to come under a degree of scrutiny that makes a visit to the dentist seem preferable by comparison to meeting the CIO/CEO.  And expect a mandate that every future IT project will need to be fully justified in terms of TCO.  In other words, expect IT to have to account for the resources consumed by every app or line of business. By adopting the technologies that allow clouds such as EC2 to offer both cost savings and metrics based pricing in your IT environment, you can turn your IT department into a dynamic, cost-justified/priced service that is responsive to the needs of your business.

How do you build an internal cloud?  The basic building blocks are 1) an agile infrastructure (virtualization really helps, but we can also do this for native workloads)  2) an automated dynamic workload management layer that can optimally place apps/VMs on the infrastructure 3) a user/customer self-service portal for gaining access to virtualized IT resources and managing workloads, and 4) granular metrics on usage that permit chargeback, or at the very least proper accounting for resource use by different apps/lines of business. You can get everything you need from VMware, or you can get everything you need for a fraction of the price from Citrix or Microsoft. Finally, consider a Xen based infrastructure for your internal cloud because if you do so, your agile workloads can easily migrate to a Xen based IT cloud operated by a service provider. No other virtualization technology offers such a compound benefit today.

While we’re on the topic of clouds and service based IT, I think it worth pointing out the huge interest and excitement in application and desktop delivery (App virtualization and VDI). The economics of server based application and desktop execution are compelling, the security benefits outstanding, and as one who lives and dies by the technology, the user experience is typically superior to local execution.  Moreover the model is inherently service based: I log on (once) and my various apps are instantly available (hosted, streamed or published in my virtual desktop), my devices all plug in and work, and apps like Outlook that can often clog up a PC for minutes while they contemplate the meaning of life, are zippy when running on modern server hardware.  Perhaps most importantly, this model offers another profound benefit to IT: when the apps and desktop are securely delivered by IT, IT can get out of the business of owning the end user device. I happen to own a Mac (like 10 percent of the rest of you) that is loaded with music, videos, personal correspondence and so on.  I live on my Mac because it is the way that I connect to my personal world – my friends, family, the open source community, twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc. Of course, all of this non-work ‘stuff’ is directly in conflict with any rational corporate security policy.  But because my Windows desktop and all my apps are is delivered to me as service via a browser on my Mac, I also enjoy access to a responsive, up-to-date, secure, always-on, always backed up, and controlled Windows world where I work. I can of course use both – at the same time.  I think you get the picture – I’m a happy user – but more importantly, Citrix is a happy company: It doesn’t own or support my Mac. This year we started a sponsored BYOC (go on, have a guess) program at Citrix and by the end of 2009, 20 percent of Citrix employees will own their laptops.  Happy employees with cool devices of their choice, a happy CIO who has a more secure, more manageable work environment and fewer support headaches, and a happy CFO with 20 percent fewer laptops to amortize. I strongly recommend that you consider implementing your own BYOC program.
About Simon Crosby

Simon Crosby is the chief technology officer, virtualization and management division at Citrix Systems. He was founder and chief technology officer of XenSource prior to the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix in 2007. Previously, Crosby was a principal engineer at Intel where he led strategic research in distributed autonomic computing, platform security and trust. He was also the founder of CPlane Inc., a network optimization software vendor, where he held a variety of executive roles. Prior to CPlane, Crosby was a tenured faculty member at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he led research on network performance and control, and multimedia operating systems. He is the author of over 35 research papers and patents on a number of datacenter and networking topics including security, network and server virtualization, resource optimization and performance. In 2007, Crosby was awarded a coveted spot as one of InfoWorld’s Top 25 CTOs, and in 2008 eWeek nominated him as one of the 100 most influential leaders in IT.

Published Friday, December 12, 2008 6:10 AM by David Marshall
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