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From Virtual Sprawl to Virtual Stall

Arthur Cole

We're hearing a lot about "virtual stall" these days. Supposedly, this is what happens when too many virtual machines clog up both physical infrastructure and traditional management systems, bringing productivity to a halt. This places an artificial cap on the amount of virtualization the typical enterprise can handle, and, by extension, its ability to leverage cloud technology.


Most estimates center around the 30 percent mark; that is, only about 30 percent of server resources can go virtual before the stall kicks in. This has some people worried about virtualization's ability to remain the key driver in data center infrastructure development-one of the few areas of the economy that has weathered the recent downturn largely unscathed.


But is it real? Are there limits to what even virtualization can accomplish?


Already, the pushback on the virtual stall theory is starting. Virtualization Review's Bruce Board threw some cold water on it this week noting that VMware, Citrix and even Microsoft continue to tap new users as the technology drives down the market. Far from sweating over a stagnant sales environment, nearly everyone, including users, are intent on expanding their use of virtualization.


Maybe so, runs the counter-argument, but at some point the stall will kick in and individual enterprises will realize they can't handle the virtual environments they've created, choking off further expansion. Without significant changes in the management stack, CIOs will lack the ability to accommodate ever-increasing data loads.


The funny thing about all this is that, so far, it's been primarily the management vendors who are making this argument. Virtual Instruments' Archie Hendryx says the day of reckoning for most of you will come within the next year, but fear not because the VirtualWisdom and SANInsight systems are here to help. CA's Andi Mann says only the company's brand of infrastructure automation and integrated management will save the day.


So where does that leave us? Is virtual stall a phantom, making virtual management the IT equivalent of the "Snuggie"-a product designed to overcome the insurmountable problem of covering yourself with a regular blanket? Or will enterprises find themselves in trouble without a radically new management infrastructure?


Clearly, a virtual infrastructure will require specialized tools and systems to deal with the more free-flowing data environments they create, but it doesn't seem as if the issue is as dire nor as imminent as some in the industry would have you believe.


The important thing to keep in mind is that virtualization transforms the data center from a collection of independent components to a holistic assembly of integrated resources. That means changes to one area will vastly impact operations in another.



As long as the entire enterprise, including management, moves forward together, there's no reason to expect any of it to stall.


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