This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
What a year it’s been for virtualization and enterprise IT. We’ve seen more adoption of new infrastructure in a shorter amount of time than we possibly ever have, except for the move away from mainframe computing; that one has us virtual techies beat…so far. Now that we’re about to see 2010 come to a close, what better time to review how virtualization has changed – and has changed within – IT and what we can look forward to next year. If 2011 is anywhere near as accelerated as 2010 then we’re in for quite a ride.
According to IDC (News - Alert), 2009 was the year when virtual workload deployments exceeded physical workloads and 2010 saw a projected 28 percent increase of virtualization deployments. With enterprise IT adoption of virtualization bordering 50 percent for production use (according to some hypervisor-based statistics), there’s no denying that 2010 was the year virtualization became mainstream. Deploying virtual data centers is now a viable solution that stretches across multiple infrastructure models.
Although still an overloaded and overly hyped term, 2010 showed us that the cloud is here to stay. IT continues to look at how they can consolidate resources while increasing services on and off premises. What may be more indicative of an IT cultural shift is that large service providers that have long played a pivotal role in the hosting world are now building solutions that are very cloud like in nature: dynamically provisionable, integrated management, etc. What we’ve seen in 2010 from the big providers is just the tip of the iceberg, and they may be on the cusp of creating a model that’s more than cloud; only time will tell.
Which leads me to next year: Let’s start with a stretch goal, what some are calling fabric-based computing. The basic idea behind fabric-based computing is that we take what we’ve done with virtual machines and virtualized hardware, and we ramp it up a notch…no, we ramp it up 1,000 notches.
With fabric-based computing, there are literally no physical constraints to any part of the computing fabric. If you need more networking you plug in a new RAM (News - Alert) blade and assign it to a new virtual switch. If you need more storage bandwidth you plug in a new array of platters, a new rack of bus cards, and a new RAM blade, which becomes the virtual storage head. I’m not yet 100 percent sold on this idea; I think we have many, many hurtles to jump over before we get to this point (just think of the management issues alone), but I do believe it will be top of mind for discussion during 2011.
At a more tangible level, I believe we’ll see massive growth in hybrid cloud computing: the perfect meld between on-premises resources, off-premises hosting, and cloud deployments. Control will be kept on-premises (tasks such as user authentication and governance over traffic management); the bulk of application services will be delivered from an off-premises hosted environment (with predictability); and application spikes, new temporary and/or development services, and geographic distribution will move to a cloud-based infrastructure (agile and provisionable). Traditional hosting services will become the keystone to distributed services; it may ultimately be less expensive to maintain a physical model for critical application delivery, where usage can be more accurately predicted and managed, rather than a full cloud-based model. This will allow cloud deployments to burst beyond the hosting platform when needed, thus removing the lag time with provisioning traditional hosting services and truly right scaling into the cloud only when necessary. Enterprise IT will always seek out what gives it the greatest ROI, and separating tasks between the appropriate infrastructure models will become easier to manage over the course of 2011.
There are many other areas of virtualization growth we can expect in 2011. Hosted virtual desktops, for example, may start to move to the mainstream, melding desktop infrastructure with distributed server infrastructure (ie the cloud). Delivering desktops from a remote site is much more complicated than delivering applications, but as WAN optimization and management becomes more critical for off-premises server solutions, there’s no reason to think that virtual desktops won’t be able to take advantage of those advances. Couple that with the incredible growth of mobile devices powerful enough to run a full desktop over an optimized WAN and we could see new computing models extending beyond the data center and to the desktop.
For me personally, my hope is that 2011 focuses on nothing more than management. Managing these new, extremely powerful technologies could consume a year of IT growth with no room for anything else, but I realize that’s a selfish request. For 2011 I’ll have to remain content with simply being able to distribute users securely, reliably, and discreetly between my on-premises data center and my off-premises hosted cloud hybrid, and I’m OK with that…for now.
Alan Murphy is technical marketing manager of management and virtualization solutions with F5 Networks (News - Alert) (www.f5.com ).
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi