Virtualization and the New Data Center


Two new developments on the virtualization front came out this week, indicating that the technology is entering a more established phase as it becomes a common element in the data center but is still vibrant enough that new players see opportunities to wedge themselves in among the established players.

The first advance is the release by Citrix of XenServer 5.5 and the Essentials virtual management stack. The package offers a number of advanced features like consolidated backup, broader conversion and search capabilities and seamless compatibility with Active Director, Windows and all flavors of Linux. With the Essentials application, you also get storage integration, dynamic load balancing and other goodies.

But probably the most significant aspect of the platform is that Citrix is continuing the free distribution policy that it launched with XenServer 5.0, which lets just about anyone begin virtualizing their server farms with no upfront costs.

Of even greater potential significance, though, is the beta release of the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization portfolio, the result of that company's integration of the Qumranet kernel-based hypervisor late last year. The package, which is expected to include both server and client virtualization, as well as a management component, is expected to see a final release this fall.

The system is said to be scalable up to 96 cores and 1 TB of main memory, which would make it suitable for the largest known servers built on both the Xeon 7400 and 7500 processors. It also would double the capacity of a single VMware partition to cover 16 processors. However, it would only cover about 64 GB of main memory, compared to VMware's 255 GB.

All of this is coming at a time when physical server sales are still being hammered by lack of demand, due in large part to the higher utilization that virtualization provides. Even while the market is still reeling from the first quarter's dismal results, projections for the second quarter are coming in even worse. IDC is predicting a 29.6 percent decline to 10.6 billion, the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year losses. What's more, the company is predicting at least another year of bad results, with annualized spending to drop some 30 percent, about $19 billion, between now and this time next year.

If there is any silver lining on this cloud, though, it's that IDC says the market is going through the worst declines right now, with future quarters likely to be down, but by not as much.

This is all evidence of the fact that this is no ordinary economic slump we're in. This is a wholesale restructuring of data center infrastructure and operations. What comes out the other end -- whether slimmed down, more efficient systems, fully outsourced IT over the cloud, or something else entirely -- is anybody's guess. But this much is certain, the changes over the next decade or so will be substantial, and those that seek to keep new technologies at bay will be at a serious disadvantage.


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