While virtualization vendors from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft are looking to expand the hypervisor and its capabilities, other companies, from IBM to Sun Microsystems to HP, are looking to offer better management capabilities. The question is how will IT managers control virtual environments in data centers that use a mix of x86, Unix and mainframe technology?
While virtualization, especially in the
context of virtualization within x86 hardware, remains one of the most
important technologies being considered by IT managers right now, the
challenges that virtualization will present in the next decade
strategic planning now.
At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008 in Orlando, Fla., the research firm's
analysts were detailing a vision of how IT managers will be able to create
virtual environments in data centers that have a mix of hardware and operating
systems. While most of virtualization has focused on how to create virtual
machines within x86 hardware-especially when one considers what VMware
Citrix and Microsoft
have done in the past two years-there is a matter of how those virtual
environments will work and integrate within data centers that also utilize
mainframes and Unix-based servers that support legacy applications.
While trying to deal with virtualization in these types of
heterogeneous data centers, IT managers are going to be confronted with a
number of choices and scenarios for how to best maintain and control virtual
machines and applications. The question that IT will have to confront will
range from whether to stick with one
virtualization vendor, such as Microsoft or VMware,
or whether to place
applications in the virtual environment that best fits that workload, whether
it's Unix, a mainframe or x86 hardware.
"The issue here is, what am I faced with in terms of what do
I want to achieve and what type of optimized capabilities do I want?" George
Weiss, a distinguished analyst with Gartner, asked in his Oct. 14 talk. "For
example, if I want to do optimized placement of my workload, it is a noble
goal, but what platform should I use? So you really have to make decisions
about whether it's going to be on large vertically integrated SMP
[symmetric multiprocessing] systems, or is it going to be on cluster scale-out
types of technologies."
While it's possible to move virtual machines around and fit
them within the right platform now, Weiss that in the future, a lot of these
decisions are going to have to be automated with the virtual machines finding the
right platform that will optimize the workload.
The problem with these and other goals is that management software
for virtual environments is only being developed now and many still only
address management of homogenous environments such as all virtual machines on
x86 hardware. There is also a conflict of how a company's data center will grow
during the next 10 years. There is the scale-up model, which provides for more
integration but is costly, or the scale-out model which is cheaper but the
components are not integrated as well.
While there are many providers of analytics, lifecycle
management and resource management software out there now, Weiss believes a few
companies have started to offer the beginnings of what will eventually turn
into management tools that will address virtual machines in heterogeneous data
For example, Hewlett-Packard, with its Insight Dynamics VSE software,
and Sun Microsystems, with its xVM Ops
Center suite, are each offering ways
to manage both the physical hardware and virtual environments. On the other
hand, IBM is developing a management
platform called "Ensembles." While Big Blue executives have not talked much
about this platform, it has the potential to segment the data center into
common resource pools and allow IT to draw compute power from these pooled
There are also a number of smaller vendors offering a range
of different software that helps address some of the problems associated with
managing a heterogeneous data center. One example is CiRBA, a company that
provides analytics modeling.
While Weiss urged the audience to look at and evaluate these
different vendors, he cautioned that the market is crowded right now and many of
these smaller virtualization management companies
will simply go out of
business or become acquisition targets for the large vendors.