Resolution 4: Virtualize Everything

It’s midway through the year and it’s time to dive into another resolution. This time I am tackling resolution number 4 from my 15 resolutions for the 2015 revolution. I resolve to stop thinking about virtualization as a hypervisor. Why? Because virtualization is so much more than just a hypervisor and it’s important for us to understand this in order to leverage the technology in our data center to extract the full value.

Let’s start with a  definition to sort out what this thing is. Wikipedia says:

In computing, virtualization refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including (but not limited to) a virtual computer hardware platform, operating system (OS), storage device, or computer network resources.

The second portion of this is the critical piece to remember. Virtualization is no longer limited to a the traditional concept of a computer hardware platform or a hypervisor. The OS, the storage, and even the network resources in a data center can be virtual. This is a critical advantage because it provides far greater flexibility. Take the standard OS virtualization that we have become accustomed to. If you can quickly “deploy” a new instance of a system with just the click of a button or a execution of a script, you can begin to provide an environment that can grown and shrink with the demands of the business. I have argued many times that IT is a provider of services to the business, and if the business doesn’t need a service right now, it’s costly to simply always have those resources available and idle. Imagine the cost for the multiple systems or racks it would take to provide an infrastructure that was only utilized at month end during payroll processing for example. But with virtualization, I can spin those systems up instantly as demand dictates. No need to procure, configure and deploy a physical server each time.

Now imagine if I extend the same thing to my network and storage layers as well. Granted, I will always have a requirement for some sort of physical infrastructure just as I do with my virtual server hosts, but I am no longer dependent on fancy hardware because the magic sauce is in the software now. COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) hardware which is easy and quick to acquire and requires minimal configuration will suffice. The software becomes critical to this and requires thoughtful consideration of which vendor to choose. If you look at the innovators of x86 virtualization, it should make sense to consider VMware’s VSAN and NSX stacks to virtualize your storage and network layers. A leader in the storage market, EMC also has a virtual storage offering in ScaleIO that merits evaluation along with Cisco’s strong position in the network market with ACI. Whichever direction you go, you are extending your virtualization farther than just a hypervisor and leveraging the benefits across the infrastructure.

If you think we will stop at the storage and network layers, then you are missing the point of this resolution. In time, the software defined data center will incorporate virtualized versions of everything we expect to see in a physical form. In every case, the adoption will be driven by the fact that it empowers IT with the flexibility it craves, the efficient the business demands, and the cost that the c-suite expects.

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