Virtualization has proven to be an effective means of consolidating hardware resources, but it is still limited to the non-critical areas of data center operations.
That means most organizations are quickly approaching a brick wall in their consolidation efforts: The technology is there to continue the process, but the drop in performance is too great to justify the cost savings.
But that may be about to change, as a new generation of technologies improves both the speed and performance of critical apps and the ability to manage them.
On the throughput front, the biggest news is this weeks' release from Neterion of the X3120 network adapter, the first dual-port 10 GbE device featuring Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV). The unit essentially acts as a traffic cop for the data streams coming and going from multiple virtual machines. The X3120 appears to the host hypervisor as any number of 10 GbE PCIe adapters, which can be dedicated to a single VM or pooled across several. The up-shot is, you now have the same 10 GbE line rate for multiple high-I/O applications that you saw in non-virtualized systems, which can be coupled with the company's IOQoS system to maintain hardware-level SLAs.
Virtual environments being what they are, there is a fair amount of configuration and reconfiguration going on. That tends to interfere with application delivery as internal systems continually have to hunt for the correct configuration pathways. For VMware users, a new fix for this problem is available in the form of Radware's vAdapter, a free management tool that automates the synchronization between the application deliver controller (ADC) and the virtual environment. The system helps prevent configuration problems through real-time mapping updates between VM clusters and the ADC.
Meanwhile, rPath is looking to streamline application delivery through a new release management module in its Project Javelin initiative. The package includes things like improved dashboard reporting and workflow support, centralized inventory and control and expanded API integration -- all intended to automate the release-management process from start to finish. The idea is to maintain a consistent delivery environment even as enterprises undergo changes brought on not only by virtualization, but cloud computing and open source frameworks as well.
Virtual environments have proven adept at both simplifying and complicating IT operations. While fewer machines means less noise, energy consumption and overall maintenance, it also means network pathways and I/O connections now exist where they can't be seen. That means advanced management software and board- or even chip-level upgrades will be necessary just to maintain overall application performance.
It doesn't make IT oversight any easier, but it certainly makes it possible to do more with less.