Virtualization

Whomever you want to ask, from Gartner to McKinsey: Virtualization is a hot topic in 2006 and beyond.

For example, Information Week’s David Strom mentions five disruptive technologies that could change the face of business over the next 12 months:

“2007 will be the year when a host of hot technologies which have been percolating around the mainstream rise high on the radar screens of CIOs and IT managers. For example, radio-frequency identification, frequently viewed as a standalone tagging technology, will begin to ramp up the data loads IT centers must handle, as the tags become more pervasive. Web services, long touted as the next big thing, is poised to begin presenting workaday challenges, as managers are tasked with integrated Web-based apps into the enterprise. Mobile security is a no-brainer as a hot technology for the coming year, as far-flung workforces face newer and more troubling threats.

Most challenging may be two technologies which will begin their ascent in 2007, but may take a bit longer to assume a dominant role in the enterprise. Those would be virtualization and advanced graphics. The latter will get a big boost from the advent of Microsoft’s Vista operating system.”

Good to know that Microsoft seems to address at least one of these “futuristic” areas. But maybe the colleagues in Redmond have some more to offer. If you first want to familiarize yourself with the topic, IBM provides this opportunity. The well known Microsoft partner recently recently published Tim Jones’ (Consultant Engineer from Emulex) article on Virtual Linux. To Mr. Jones excuse I’d assume that he hadn’t vistited the last LinuxWorld and therefore missed Microsoft’s announcement to the Linux community. However, aside from the fact that Mr. Jones completely ignores Microsoft’s existence, academic contributions or it’s products (e. g. the free downloadable Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2), he provides good insight on history and concepts:

“Virtualization means many things to many people. A big focus of virtualization currently is server virtualization, or the hosting of multiple independent operating systems on a single host computer. This article explores the ideas behind virtualization and then discusses some of the many ways to implement virtualization. We also look at some of the other virtualization technologies out there, such as operating system virtualization on Linux.

To virtualize means to take something of one form and make it appear to be another form. Virtualizing a computer means to make it appear to be multiple computers or a different computer entirely.

Virtualization also can mean making many computers appear to be a single computer. This is more commonly called server aggregation or grid computing.”

Hardware related virtualization is definetely not the focus of this thread. Microsoft’s Hardware Developer Central offers sufficient background on WIndows Virtualization. Digging really deep, for example are the following three presentations:

I’d rather like to focus on the application related aspects of this topic. Giovanni Marchetti (Architect, Microsoft UK) offers a nice simplistic definition in his Architectural Assessment of Virtualisation during the Microsoft Architect Insight Conference in March 2006:

“Virtualisation is a technique to pool computing resources in a way that masks their physical boundaries to the resource users.

And isn’t architecture always about the abundance of complexity? Another flavour of Microsoft’s point of view was offered by David Hitchen(Technology Solution Professional, Microsoft UK) during a TechNet event in November 2006, and made available for download: Virtualisation Unplugged. Let me teturn to David Strom’s piece. Here’s where I slightly disagree: The adoption rate of the new technologies mentioned, especially virtualization. Virtualization won’t be hot in the future, it is already hot – and I’m rather following McKinsey’s view point here. The consultants claim – in a footnote to their latest survey of CIOs Agenda – that this trend was already evolving for quite some time:

“In our summer 2005 survey of 77 senior IT executives, 38 percent said that they planned to consolidate servers and to adopt virtualization techniques that make better use of hardware by improving the distribution of server tasks among machines. In our most recent survey, the numbers rose to 72 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Also, in our 2005 survey, 38 percent of the respondents said that they planned to buy software as a service. (For more details, see Kishore Kanakamedala, Vasantha Krishnakanthan, and Roger P. Roberts, ‘Two new tools that CIOs want,’ McKinsey on IT, Number 8, Summer 2006, pp. 32–3.) In our 2006 survey, that number rose to 61 percent.”

If you’d accept, that basic functionality is commoditized, an as a result, that at least some parts of IT is being industrialized, then McKinsey’s perceived trend of lean manufacturing makes a lot of sense. And it becomes quite clear, once again, that this conversation is not about technology, but about business:

“The second trend poised to strengthen in 2007 is the application of lean-manufacturing principles to data centers. In our recent survey, 28 percent of the respondents said that they had already applied or decided to apply lean principles to improve their data center operations. Lean, of course, isn’t a technology but rather a methodology applied to processes—originally in manufacturing operations but increasingly within services, including IT.

Data centers have grown tremendously over the past 10 to 15 years as IT spending has increased and cost-conscious CIOs have consolidated smaller centers into fewer and larger ones. A data center for a typical large enterprise has hundreds of millions of dollars in capital equipment (server farms, mainframes, networking gear, and storage devices), consumes large amounts of electricity, and requires hundreds of highly skilled engineers and technicians to operate. In particular, the labor costs have grown significantly with the commitment of resources to processes such as incident response, problem management, and change management. Applying lean principles can help reduce waste and improve labor productivity by as much as 40 percent in some processes. Nearly one-third of our survey respondents aim to apply lean principles in these centers—a significant share, suggesting that the initial positive results from early adopters are encouraging a wider field of IT organizations to explore this methodology. We will continue to track these trends—and their implications for business and IT leaders—during 2007.”

Nonetheless, some people still need to understand technology because, ultimately, they will deploy and operate the technology fueling these buseiness driven concepts. Therefore back to Microsoft and its offering: The concept of virtualization was prominently highlighted at the European TechEd 2006 in November, and several the sessions are available as video-downloads. Here’s the link list:

  • Using Application Virtualization to Decrease Your Application Management TCO. Bill Corrigan (Director of Project Management, System Center Marketing Team, Microsoft Corporation) and Chad Jones (Group Product Manager, Windows Client Virtualization, Microsoft Corporation): This session will introduce the newly acquired SoftGrid, an exciting new technology that has proven to reduce customers’ application management costs by upwards of 95%.  This session will give the attendee a strong overview of the application virtualization and streaming technology and how it can be used to augment existing systems management infrastructure.  We will share real-world case studies and demonstrate the Softricity products working in conjunction with other Microsoft technologies, including Active Directory, Terminal Services and Systems Management Server.
  • Transitioning to Windows Server Virtualization. Mark Kieffer (Group Product Manager, Windows Core OS Team, Microsoft Corporation): Join this session to learn more about Windows virtualization, a new technology in Microsoft Windows Server code-named ‘Longhorn’. We introduce the key scenarios for Windows virtualization and new features and improvements in Microsoft Virtual Server, including better performance. Find out how you can start adopting Microsoft Virtual Server today and transition to Windows virtualization by leveraging the unified format.
  • An Overview of Microsoft’s Vision for Virtualization. Rajiv Arunkundram (Product Manager, Windows Server Marketing, Microsoft Corporation): In this session we focus on virtualization technology and we offer an introduction to Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2. We also outline Microsoft’s vision for the technology over the next few years. This session provides a high-level overview of the different solutions that you can implement with virtualization.
  • How to Virtualize Infrastructure Workloads. Robert Larson (Architect, Microsoft Services): Join this session to learn about virtualization of infrastructure workloads such as Active Directory (AD), file and print, Web servers and the benefits of mixed workload virtualization. We discuss details, tips, and tricks for creating an effective virtualization environment. During this session, we walk you step by step through the process of planning, deploying, and managing a virtual environment for infrastructure workloads.

A good start, if you want to learnmore about Microsoft’s offering, would be a visit to Virtualization and Consolidation. While you download Virtual Server 2005 R2, you might want to evaluate Anil Desai‘s (an independent consultant and MVP based in Austin, TX) TechNet article Do More With Less: Exploring Virtual Server 2005. Beyond all this technical documentation, tools and downloads already referenced, Microsoft provides even more knowledgeware through several events. From January to March and throughout the world, Microsoft offers his partners two series of opportunities to familiarize with Microsoft’s product and service offering. A , specifically for technical decision makers, is designed to provide the necessary knowledge and technical details of Microsoft Virtual Server R2 and related technologies to determine and plan a virtualization roadmap. During a virtualization experts will teach developers how to take advantage of the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.

Back to the business section again – after all, since this blog is about enterprise computing, high-end dabases, SAP applications, etc., readers might even be able to answer this fancy question:

“With Microsoft SQL Server in an active or passive failover scenario, an organization has two virtual machines, with one virtual processor in each. Only one virtual machine is running or active (one processor); the second virtual machine is off or inactive (one processor) and used only as a backup. Should the organization purchase only one SQL proc license and use the active or passive rights for the second installation? Will that rule still apply in a virtual environment?”

The Virtual Server 2005 Frequently Asked Questions won’t help you here as they are clearly focussing on technical questions, such as sizing or configuration. And don’t ask me (Hint 1Hint 2 – Hint 3) for an answer – I’ve promised myself to never ever digg into licensing details🙂

About Thomas Dreller

Live is too short for unhealthy food, sour wine, stressful relationships, or unprofitable business. Bio on http://www.linkedin.com/in/tdreller
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