Why Virtualize?


My post earlier this week asked two key questions surrounding virtualization deployment: how and where. But I failed to heed my earliest journalistic training by tackling the most important question: why?


After a little thought and a little research, I realized that the question "Why virtualize?" is actually two-faceted. One the one hand it's important to determine why data centers are going virtual, and on the other we should try to figure out why they should. The answers to both questions are not necessarily the same.


The first question is relatively easy to answer. Most people are virtualizing to save money. Storage Expo surveyed more than 300 companies recently on their virtualization objectives and found that 62 percent cited server consolidation as their primary goal. Thirty percent were jazzed about new management capabilities, which by and large provide greater efficiency and lower costs with existing infrastructure.


As for why should you virtualize, that's a more complicated question. While consolidation is a worthy goal, it only scratches the surface of potential benefits the technology can deliver. In this Q&A with Sys-Con, Egenera Executive VP Christine Crandall points out that virtualization is actually just a means to an end-the end being a more reliable, dynamic data center. In her view, virtualization provides the foundation for a heterogeneous compilation of computing, storage and I/O resources connected by an intelligent, unified fabric and governed by a holistic management environment. With virtualization, you can dramatically speed up development cycles and optimize application workloads.


What we're actually talking about here is a complete transformation of the data center akin to the introduction of minicomputers or the development of open systems, according to storage consultant Stephen Foskett. One of the chief benefits of a fully virtual environment will be the ability to extend resources beyond the data center walls, allowing you to move server images wherever they are needed, anywhere in the world.


This brings us right to the cloud, of course. Virtualization is essentially the foundation for a broader cloud computing infrastructure, says Ignacio Martin Llorente, a member of the Distributed Systems Architecture Research Group at the University of Madrid. A distributed virtual infrastructure opens the door to the cloud by providing the ability to place virtual machines into physical resource pools and then distribute them according to business needs.


And exactly how will this benefit the enterprise? Well, for those of you who are still into irony, you'll be able to cut costs by deploying an entire IT infrastructure without encountering any capital costs, just a fee for the capacity you use.


So is virtualization all about saving money, then? Partially, but it also provides the means to step into the future-one in which computing resources are always there when you need them and establishing entirely new application environments is as easy as turning on a light switch.