Is Virtualization an Integration Solution or Nightmare?


In what can only be described as a holiday miracle, IBM intends to solve your integration problems in 2009.




Yeah, I was a bit skeptical, too. And rightly so, because it turns out, "intends" is the key word here.


IBM CIO Mark Hennessy told eWeek news that IBM's Global Services division "has as its top priority for 2009 the integration of enterprises' legacy software and hardware with new, virtualized equipment." That got translated into the headline, "How IBM Intends to Kill IT Chaos in 2009."


The article caught my eye, because, well, that headline's just too much, but also because Francis Carden, founder of OpenSpan, recently e-mailed me his 2009 predictions, which included this item on virtualization:

"The growth in virtualization will present significant challenges when trying to integrate virtualized and non-virtualized applications, as well as when integrating virtualized applications built on different hypervisor technologies."

So, while IBM sees virtualization as the solution to integration, Carden sees it as yet another integration challenge. Interesting.


I wish the article had talked more specifically about virtualization and integration, but instead it focuses primarily on IBM's own recent efforts at integration-which is still an interesting read. One thing IBM likes to do is focus its marketing on a problem it has tackled in-house, and that's the theme here. IBM recently did a bunch of internal integration, both in its IT organizational chart and infrastructure.


Big Blue went from "128 CIO functions" (I'm not sure what a function is, but it sounds to me like some people lost their jobs or at least a title) to one. They've also downsized from 155 data centers to five strategic centers and cut 16,000 applications to under 5,000-retiring 10,000 legacy apps along the way.


That's a lot of integration work and, understandably, IBM now wants to sell what it's learned to you.


Hennessey believes the time is right for CIOs to focus on integration:

"Organizations are looking to be more efficient, but I also feel they are more focused on flexibility and agility, and being able to move quickly. I saw a CEO study from earlier this year, and one of the more interesting facts that came out of it was that 80 percent of them expect significant change in their business. ... Frankly, it means that it's a great time for CIOs to continue their transition from a focus on cost and efficiency alone [to focusing] also on how to drive growth and integration for their companies."

Obviously, virtualization is already being used to reduce servers. But there are also side-effects to moving to virtualization, and I'm only just now seeing articles and posts about the downside. The eWeek article notes a few of these cons, including the fact IT mangers fear the loss of control of virtual machines. But just this week, a Forbes column looked at how virtualization and cloud computing mean less control for the CIO as well, and that has broader business and political implications.


I'll be interested in learning more about how IBM used virtualization for integration. Certainly, virtualization looks to be big in 2009, particularly as it relates to cloud computing.


But the cons are still emerging, and that's why I tend to think Carden will be right about the growth hitting a wall. At some point in the coming year, IT is going to have to take a hard look at virtualization's downside -- regardless of whether that downside is related to integration or loss of control or some issue as yet forecasted.