Current Market Challenges
The global financial crisis, pressure on enterprise pricing and profitability, and increasing cost of capital are driving today's corporations to demand more for less. In addition, organizations are seeking to reduce general and administrative expense, including those expenses associated with IT hardware, storage, networks, and applications in order to maintain shareholder value. Most importantly, Information Technology (IT) departments must reduce ongoing management and maintenance costs to free up the necessary funds for development and critical investments in new technology to support a more responsive, agile, and on-demand technical infrastructure. To accomplish this, corporations are continuing to rationalize assets deployed during the 1990's IT spending spree, by leveraging a more efficient global delivery model, and by turning towards virtualization technology. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by IDG Service Group, 72% or corporations are currently investing in server virtualization, 41% in desktop virtualization, 41% in storage virtualization, 23% enterprise/data center virtualization, and 22% application virtualization.
Key Market Drivers for Virtualization Solutions
IT departments continue to invest during flat and declining budget cycles by optimizing existing server and desktop virtualization and by gaining further synergies through the adoption of additional virtualization technologies. One of the most significant benefits of virtualization is that it has the ability to scale applications and infrastructure as needed. In addition, it enables accelerated time to- market by increasing the speed, flexibility, and quality of service and infrastructure. Virtualization improves business continuity, disaster recovery, availability of resources. Virtualization also extends the business benefits of services oriented architecture (SOA) by facilitating the sharing of reusable IT assets within multiple operating systems.
The rapid adoption of virtualization is also being driven by the need to continue to employ legacy systems prior to and during migration efforts. The focus on corporate green initiatives to the lowering power and cooling requirements associated with infrastructure is also driving the implementation of virtualization. Further fueling the trend toward virtualization is the increasing sophistication and capabilities of the technology itself. Newer hypervisors result in minimal differences between bare metal and virtualized systems, and technology in other virtualization areas such as storage, network and application, is maturing rapidly. Finally, because it isolates end users from the actual resource via a layer of abstraction, corporations view virtualization as an important building block to cloud computing.
The Beginnings of Integrated Virtual Data Center Environments
Virtualization is a method of abstracting software systems and resources from the underlying physical hardware which hosts them (i.e. virtual memory in a computer). By breaking the bond between physical hardware and software, virtualization allows for: Running multiple virtual machines with heterogeneous operating systems at the same time on the same physical machine. Enabling multiple data networks to share the same physical infrastructure, increasing flexibility, security, and optimizing network performance. Optimizing storage platforms based on what data needs to be used and retrieved when, reducing costs of storage, and simplifying management of the storage infrastructure. Rapidly deploying and managing highly available, fault tolerant data centers and computing systems, based on simple computing building blocks, and do so at a very low cost. Transforming disparate resources into a pool of computing assets than can be dynamically allocated. End users consume IT resources where and when they are needed resulting in a fractional ownership approach for infrastructure and applications.
Today's virtualization technology represents almost a back-to-the-future approach, providing many of the cost, security, and management benefits of a centralized mainframe to dumb terminal infrastructure, while eliminating many of the disadvantages through the use of a pool of data center resources linked to responsive and GUI-enabled thin servers. IBM incorporated early virtual technologies within its mainframes produced in the 1960's and 70's. Digital Equipment Corporation evolved virtualization even further with the virtual file system embedded in its VAX operating system. Virtual technologies were also used more recently in Unix/RISC systems. The concept was popularized in the 1990's with the introduction of increasingly sophisticated products from VMware designed for computers based on x86 architecture. CPUs based upon x86 architecture operates using a sequence of stored instructions, 17 of which cause difficulty when attempting to virtualize a machine. VMware developed a technique that traps these problematic instructions and converts them into safe commands that can be virtualized. As a result, VMware remains a clear market leader in virtualization products, although companies such as Citrix, Microsoft, and others are also attempting to gain market share.