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What’s Next for Virtualization in 2009?

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

Contributed by Margaret Lewis, Director, Commercial Solutions and Software Strategy, AMD 

What’s Next for Virtualization in 2009?

Virtualization has come a long way since late 1999 when VMware hit the market with the first x86 virtualization product, VMware Virtual Platform.  Back then, virtualization was a heavy software task.  That’s not to say it’s a simple task today. But because of hardware-assisted virtualization technology, a feature of the recently launched Quad-Core AMD Opteron™ processor codenamed ‘Shanghai’, there is now more functionality on the hardware level to help reduce the complexity of the software load, enabling a more robust ecosystem of virtualization software, which in turn is enabling more customers to take advantage of the benefits virtualization technology offers.

It could be argued that 2009 is the year that virtualization will officially move from an emerging to a mainstream technology.  From what we’ve heard from our customers, nearly every IT manager has at least considered the option of virtualizing their data center – and many have already taken steps to begin  implementation of virtualization with demanding workloads, such as web serving and database. 

As virtualization becomes mainstream in 2009 and beyond, it is important that hardware and processor vendors continue to make advancements and innovations to simplify the virtualization process, thus enabling a larger range of ISVs to evolve virtualization software, and drive usage throughout the enterprise and into the mid-market. Let’s take a deeper look at two areas of virtualization in which changes may occur over the next year: interoperability and I/O virtualization. 

One of the major shortcomings of virtualization today is the lack of vendor interoperability.  Currently, a virtualized data center must be more homogeneous in nature as cross-platform virtualization solutions are more limited. .  Given that most IT environments are heterogeneous, running a variety of operating systems, applications, and processor technology, virtualization software needs to offer functionality that enables them to work seamlessly with current IT infrastructure.  In order to have this choice, there will have to be a degree of interoperability across hardware and virtualization vendors.  Throughout 2009, we are hoping to see major vendors work with their software partners to help encourage interoperability in virtualized environments through continued efforts in areas such as live migration of virtual machines (VMs) and in cross-platform virtualization management.  We can also expect that 2009 will be a big year for I/O virtualization.

Live migration, or the movement of running VMs from one physical server to another without disrupting service to the end user, has immense benefits including balancing server loads, helping to eliminate server downtime and aiding in disaster recovery.   A major breakthrough in live migration happened in November 2008 when AMD, along with its technology partner, Red Hat, was able to demonstrate that a live migration across Intel and AMD based x86 platforms is - despite a level of skepticism - possible. In a demonstration, the two companies moved a live VM from a two-socket Intel Xeon DP Quad Core E5420-based system to a two-socket system based on the forthcoming 45nm Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor, utilizing Red Hat's high-performance open source virtualization software technology.

Continuing to push live migration is a huge step in upping the level of interoperability (and in expanding the end users’ freedom of choice in virtualization products) offered in virtualization.  However, in order to make it happen, hardware and processor vendors will have to continuously explore the viability of live migration with all willing ISVs before users can reap the potential benefits.  This will require hardware vendors to continue to build out robust ecosystems of software partners so they can work together to optimize virtualization solutions, making the technology easier to use, making it more customizable, and allowing it to find place in the everyday data center.

We can also expect to see continued developments in I/O virtualization in 2009.  I/O virtualization, which allows multiple operating systems running simultaneously within a single computer to natively share I/O devices, is another aspect of virtualization that can help provide that pervasive environment we’re after in the virtualization community. AMD released its initial I/O virtualization specification to the market in 2006, with the goal of enabling hardware and software vendors to engage in an open dialog and develop a methodology that can be used by all.  The whole process is now coming to market and, in 2009, we expect to see it come to fruition in product form.  I/O virtualization continues the effort to reduce virtualization overhead, by removing device emulation, removing layers of translations, and by allowing native drivers to work with devices directly.  AMD is continuing its effort to work with multiple virtualization vendors and ISVs on this I/O virtualization specification in an effort to promote choice and freedom with regard to virtualization solutions.

Overall, in 2009 we expect to see virtualization tweaked and optimized to make it easier to implement and optimized to provide customers a robust solution - which will in turn continue to push the technology further into the mainstream IT scene.  Ultimately, those hardware providers with a robust virtualization ecosystem – a great set of ISVs partners to help make virtualization technology easier to use –will be the ones to prevail as leaders and innovators in the industry.

About the Author 

Margaret Lewis is a Product Marketing Director at AMD.  Her postings are her own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied. 

Margaret Lewis has more than 25 years of experience in developing and marketing commercial computing products. Ms. Lewis is currently director of Commercial Solutions and Software Strategy at AMD where she is responsible for identifying software solutions for AMD’s products that target the commercial market. Prior to working at AMD, she was Associate Director of Marketing at the Maui High Performance Computing Center, a government computing center focused on technical computing solutions for the scientific and engineering communities and a Marketing Manager for Novell’s developer and database product groups. Ms. Lewis is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.  You can follow Margaret’s blog at blogs.amd.com/virtualization.

Published Thursday, December 18, 2008 5:42 AM by David Marshall
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