Infrastructure virtualization is here to stay, and its positive impacts on the data center are well worth checking into. Just make sure not to get sidetracked by the myths surrounding the technology. George Crump, founder of Storage Switzerland, a virtualization and storage analysis firm, provides tips on how to overcome the three biggest myths regarding infrastructure virtualization.
infrastructure virtualization companies are making a bigger and bigger splash
in the data center, we've begun to see inaccurate information being spread by
competing technologies-mostly those that use a proprietary stack. I'm a
supporter of infrastructure virtualization trends regardless of the company
involved (as seen in products, for example, that include but are not limited to
Scalent V/OE, Egenera and Unisys uAdapt).
So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of my company Storage Switzerland
because neutrality ensures that you are receiving accurate information from
us), I want to take a moment to shed some light on reality. In this article, I
will discuss the three major infrastructure virtualization myths, as well as
share some tips about how to overcome them.
Myth No. 1 is the "Storage" Myth: Infrastructure
virtualization uses too much storage because the technology boots full, stored
images instead of assembling images on the fly.
How to overcome the "Storage" Myth
There are really two issues here: risk and storage space. From a storage
space perspective, it's conceptually possible that full images could take up
more space than component-assembled images. But storage is cheap. Plus, these
days boot images are relatively small compared with all the other data sets in
the enterprise. It's hard to believe that a single gold master image per
situation could cause significant storage issues.
In contrast, real-time image assembly is fraught with risk. Do you really
want your server built on the fly at every boot? Seems like a lot of moving
parts-and thus, a lot of opportunity for error. I am a firm believer in using
technology to save disk space but only when you can do so with limited risk and
significant payoff in space savings. Creating boot images on the fly does
Myth No. 2 is the "Security" Myth: Infrastructure
virtualization companies introduce a security risk because they leverage
virtual and private networks
How to overcome the "Security" Myth
The general answer here would be: "Things are more secure."
Egenera actually uses a proprietary hardware backplane. This would seem to be
very secure in that no hacker would know its approach. However, because it is
proprietary, we don't know for sure. You would need to thoroughly test that.
Unisys uAdapt and Scalent V/OE leverage standard industry VLAN (virtual LAN)
technology. This, if used correctly, is about the most secure approach you can
find to networking! What does "correctly" mean in this case? Let's
cite Cisco Systems on the topic (from the "Double-Encapsulated
802.1Q/Nested VLAN Attack" paragraph of the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Switches
VLAN Security White Paper
"[For security in 802.1Q trunking], always pick an unused VLAN as
native VLAN of all the trunks; don't use this VLAN for any other purpose
As both Unisys and Scalent claim to do this, all seems to be well. Comparing
all of this with the all-too-common practice in the server virtualization world
of building a wide-open flat network, infrastructure virtualization is
significantly more secure.
Myth No. 3 is the "Overhead and Risk" Myth: Infrastructure
virtualization companies add another component (server and agent) to data
center management. Isn't this a failure risk?
How to overcome the "Overhead and Risk" Myth
In a sense, every bit of software is a failure risk. But let's examine what
each adds and what happens if each fails.
Egenera is hardware-based. So you would think it would have better
performance, right? Unfortunately, it turns out that it is also in the data
path; that is, all data flowing to and from your data center servers must pass
through the Egenera controller. So that will add some overhead and block some
protocols. Also, if the Egenera controller fails, it blocks access to all of
your managed servers.
Unisys and Scalent, on the other hand, are not in the data path. So there's
no overhead added there. Even if their control servers failed, your data center
servers would remain 100 percent accessible. Each does ask for an agent to be
installed on the managed servers. But the odds of that agent causing a failure
are infinitesimal. Even if one did, the server would simply reboot on another
physical machine-with the same storage and network connectivity (the point of
Contrast those two approaches with the assembly approach mentioned in Myth
No. 1. I think it's safe to say that there's comparatively little
overhead and risk added by any infrastructure virtualization player relative to
The bottom line
So, what's the net? As always, be careful of the FUD. The older vendors are
clinging to proprietary software applications, so don't be scared off.
Infrastructure virtualization is here to stay. Ironically, what this tends to
be is a delaying tactic that vendors will use until they right their
Infrastructure virtualization is a "now"
technology. Its positive impacts on the data center are well worth the time for
you to examine and test these solutions.
George Crump is the founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. An industry veteran of over 25 years, he has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest integrators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.