This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with virtualization technologies for many years – from using virtualization on my old Linux desktop so I could run a corporate Windows image, to building large virtualized test and lab deployments, through architecting entire virtualized data centers, and currently coming full circle running a corporate Win7 image on my MacBook Pro. I even took a fun (and highly productive) two-year detour into virtualization security (which I’ve previously written about in this column). Through all of that I’ve seen a very nice and smooth progression of virtualization technologies as they have gained mass adoption.
And now in 2010 we’re really seeing virtualization become the de facto standard for building agile data centers both inside and out of the enterprise. Nowhere is this more obvious than with cloud computing and how the enterprise has begun to embrace off-premises computing and utilizing virtualization as part of its entire infrastructure. There’s no question that over the next few years we will continue to not only see cloud computing as a concept grow but also to see the enterprise create new and unique ways to make the cloud an extension of its own data centers.
If we all agree that cloud will continue to demand our attention for the next few years, then let’s look at what else will be big in enterprise virtualization. What will be the next big thing?
Hosted Virtual Desktops
Desktop virtualization – virtualizing the desktop operating system and running it on a hypervisor client device – has been gaining traction slowly but surely for the past few years. We’ve seen new solutions from VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft (News - Alert) offering turn-key virtual desktop solutions, removing many of the challenges that previously crippled desktop virtualization deployments such as managing the virtual back-end, managing users, and managing desktop distribution over the network. The next logical step in desktop virtualization is to combine the best that virtualization has to offer and move those virtual desktops off premises to a hosted virtual desktop provider, or a more standard hosting or managed service provider.
HVDs offer flexibility for the end user by providing mobile desktops that can be regionally distributed – a user may pull a desktop from the DC data center when on the East Coast and the SJ data center when on the West Coast – and for IT – single-point desktop management from a central location for users everywhere. Managing desktops for remote users has long been a challenge for IT. By first virtualizing the desktop and moving the desktop off of local hardware and then moving the desktop closer to the user, HVDs are going to create a new level of flexibility for both local and mobile users.
Managing virtual infrastructure has been on the forefront of virtual platform provider solutions for the past year, and we’re starting to see some excellent results. Both VMware and Microsoft have been releasing management solutions in parallel with major hypervisor and product releases so that customers can manage new virtual deployments, upgrades, and existing systems out of the gate. The market needs management solutions for virtual deployments, and for the most part the vendors are providing.
Moving forward I expect to see a huge push from the larger, more traditional data center management platform providers to extend their reach into virtualization, specifically in the realm of integrating off-premises computing resources. Being able to manage traditional hosting, managed hosting, and cloud-based hosting solutions as an extension of the internal data center will become more of an issue over the next few years. Regardless of what technology is moved off-premises – be it traditional cloud-based applications, storage, HVDs, etc. – managing it as an internal service will be a requirement.
I am a huge fan of a completely virtualized application stack – delivering applications to users without having to deliver a running environment, i.e. the OS. To be honest, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of a push away from virtualizing the OS and all of the overhead involved with creating full virtual machines, hosting them on shared storage, patching them, etc. HVDs are an excellent example of where the market has chosen to move ahead with full OS virtualization as opposed to delivering just applications.
But users care about applications, not operating systems. If we can finally move away from virtualizing the OS solely to deliver applications, and instead spend time working on how to deliver easily just the apps to users, we would see drastic overhead savings in processing cycles, network resources, storage blocks, etc.
Whether the next big thing in virtualization is going to be an extension of something we’re already using or something completely new and different, virtual technology continues to amaze me and keep me glued to my keyboard.
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