Virtualization Technology News and Information
Virtualization's Second Act

Virtualization's Second Act is a contributed article by K. Scott Morrison, CTO and Chief Architect, Layer 7 Technologies

At the Cloud Expo last spring I was fortunate to hear Barry X. Lynn, the CEO of 3Tera (now CA), speak about the cloud. Barry is a fine speaker. He understands that no matter how good your material is, the vast majority of the audience will walk away with just one or two ideas, so these had better be good. Barry's insight? Virtualization is not the cloud-a simple, but provocative statement that in his hands becomes a catchphrase that neatly circumscribes 3Tera's vision for cloud management. Until recently, VMware might have agreed with Barry. But with their release of vCloud Director, virtualization has finally matured into true cloud computing.

To call vCloud Director (vCD) yet another v-wash by a company with an obsession for an otherwise unassuming letter would be to miss what is a significant step forward in the virtualization market. Virtualization has left behind a sometimes-awkward adolescence, emerging with a recognition of both its strengths and its weaknesses. The cloud might just be virtualization all grown up.

vCloud Director is about reconsidering the metaphors of virtualization and understanding the behaviors this model brought about. Gone are the analogues to the physical world: hosts, networks and disks; each is replaced with a resource-centric view that regroups the basic attributes of these into pools managed through cost, quotas and leases. vCD assumes a multi-tenant world managed by delegation and governed through policy. Small enough sounding changes, but taken as a whole they represent a tectonic shift for the virtualization community. vCD may be the subtle instrument of positive organizational change that the enterprise hasn't yet realized it needs.

Enterprise-scale virtualization may only be a decade old, but it is already mired in process, politics and ownership that keep it from achieving its potential. The critical change organizations need to make is the elimination of the bureaucracy and inefficiency in the management of virtualization. Cloud may be the means to do this.

The cloud isn't revolutionary because of the technology; it's revolutionary because of its intrinsic idea of self-service. Self-service is the way to bring massive scale and operational agility to virtualization. The DevOps movement, which sees development teams taking on an active role in running their applications, is a positive side-effect of cloud done right.

Empowerment of the users alters process and-gasp!-challenges roles and responsibilities. What is impressive about vCD is that the product never shrinks from this, despite the potential for alienating VMware's basic constituency in IT operations. The vCD team clearly studied the existing workflows in virtualization management and addressed the frictions that inhibit operational efficiency. vCD promotes scale and agility by delegating responsibility between administrators and users. It untangles the complicated relationship between these two roles and optimizes workflow to remove single threading and tear down the fiefdoms that discourage cooperation.

The new virtualization may be decentralized, but it does not lack control. Policy is there when people can't be-or better yet, shouldn't be. Policy is the mediation framework that allows users to exploit new resources but remain aligned with corporate objectives. Quotas and leases are one manifestation of vCD policy. Isolation is another. vCD leverages VMware's new vShield suite of products to enforce highly malleable zones of trust to contain entities in an inherently multi-tenant environment. These are important first steps in policy enforcement, and VMware recognizes that the job is far from complete and that a healthy third party ecosystem offering additional engines of policy will only help to advance their interests.

This second act of virtualization may be best summed up with a simple observation from vCD's designers: it is human nature to hoard those things we perceive as hard to acquire. We do not hoard things that are easy to obtain (well, most of us don't). The physical systems that represent months of negotiation and forms in triplicate are worth hoarding; the compute capacity you draw instantly from a pool is not. This is the vision of vCD, and the product argues that perhaps now you can indeed draw a continuous line from virtualization to the cloud.  


Thanks to K. Scott Morrison for this contributed article.  You can follow and read more from Scott on his blog, Managing Cloud Risk.

Published Tuesday, September 21, 2010 5:53 AM by David Marshall
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