Virtual Ties That Bind the Cloud

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

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.

It's been said that you don't need virtualization to get onto the cloud, but let's admit it: A cloud without virtualization is like a car with flat tires-sure you can make it go, but not very efficiently and not for very long.

Without virtualization, the cloud would be too expensive and too unwieldy to be of much use.

Some of the latest virtual-related cloud developments bear this out. Cisco is touting a whole new level of network management and flexibility with the acquisition of LineSider, a specialist in network provisioning across virtual and cloud environments. The company's technology is built around the flagship OverDrive system that virtualizes network services to enable real-time automation and control. Citrix hopes to leverage OverDrive to realize its dream of a dynamically scalable virtual infrastructure that will easily accommodate the fluctuating data needs of extremely large enterprises.

A similar capability is behind F5's recent release of the ARX application delivery networking (ADN) system as a virtual appliance. Without it, and the virtual infrastructure to support it, enterprises are limited to accessing cloud storage tiers from central offices that house physical ARX appliances. Virtualization extends the capability out to branch offices and remote facilities at a fraction of the cost. The system comes pre-qualified for the Amazon S3, Iron Mounting VFS and NetApp StorageGRID services.

Indeed, finding a cloud solution that does not incorporate some form of virtualization will likely prove a challenge in itself in the coming year. As Everything Channel CEO Robert Faletra told CRN recently, any VAR that is not out in front of both technologies will be swept away in short order. While it's tempting to wait and see how virtual systems are developed and implemented before extending them to the cloud, Faletra thinks this is a mistake. It is much better to have a cloud strategy up front than to play catch-up later.

For enterprises, however, the calculus is a little different. While there's no doubt that virtualization enhances the cloud, there is some question as to whom will ultimately be responsible for providing the virtual infrastructure. Michael Otey, president of tech consulting firm TECA, highlights the very different approaches VMware and Microsoft, the leading virtualization providers, are bringing to the cloud. VMware, as can be expected, wants a robust virtual layer in the enterprise itself, while Microsoft is touting the ability to shift all resources to the cloud. The latter approach would essentially allow enterprises to offload all virtual infrastructure to the cloud provider.

Virtualization and the cloud, then, are two very distinct flavors of advanced technology, but since they taste so good together, it's virtually impossible to have one without the other.

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