Dealing with VMs on Steroids

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Top 10 Benefits of Virtualization

Virtualization has taken a firm hold at most enterprises these days, but the fact is we've only just begun to unleash the true potential of the technology.

The virtual machine has been the primary engine of data center evolution for the past decade. So it's a little unnerving to see some of the changes affecting the technology as next-generation platforms hit the channel.

One key but largely overlooked aspect is memory size. Amid all the coverage of the new vSphere 5.0, there was little talk about the fact that VM memory has been scaled up to 1 TB, with support extending to 32 virtual CPUs. As eWeek's Cameron Sturdevant points out, most enterprises would have to institute some fairly hefty physical upgrades to handle these behemoths properly. Of late, the industry has seen a number of virtual-optimized storage solutions like Astute Networks' ViSX G3 and Nutanix' Compute Cluster server/storage combo, but at best we're talking about 5 TB of flash memory. If you need more than that you'll have to rely on disk.

And vSphere 5.0 won't even be the largest virtual environment available. Oracle just announced upgrades to the Xen-based Oracle VM platform, which also pushes VM memory to 1 TB but then quadruples virtual CPU support to 128. Never one to miss an opportunity, Oracle also provides OVM as a free download and delivers a server-based support contract, rather than one based on resource consumption.

One of the advantages to these large VMs is that they offer a way to virtualize very large database operations like Exchange and SQL, according to CRN's Keving McLaughlin. But the question is, at what cost to system flexibility? VMware has boosted network throughput with upgraded versions of the paravirtual SCSI (PVSCSI) adapter, but it's still unclear whether enterprises will enjoy the same level of data management with maxed-out VMs. Migration, in particular, could suffer.

Most enterprises are already pushing their hardware to the limit in support of existing virtual infrastructure, so we're probably not going to see a mad rush toward 1 TB VMs right away. Nevertheless, it's comforting to know that the capability already exists on the virtual layer, allowing hardware upgrades to process as technology and budgets dictate.