Virtualization may seem new, but it was around when eWEEK (then PC Week) made its debut. The roots of today's data center virtualization are easily traced to early mainframe systems of the 1970s and '80s. eWEEK Labs' Cameron Sturdevant connects the dots between his current virtualization coverage and his network management past.
may seem new, but it was around when PC Week made its debut. The roots of
today's data center virtualization are easily traced to early mainframe systems
of the 1970s and '80s.
started working in the IT industry in 1987, supporting PC-based emulation
software that replaced terminals for Digital VAX systems (where the
"V" stood for "virtual").
then, I was dealing-on the PC side of IT-with memory utilities that provided
primitive virtualization services. The Quarterdeck Extended Memory Management
system was a well-known aid used to stretch expensive memory utilization in
DOS-based PCs. I supported a similar product called Referee, a TSR utility that
juggled memory use for DOS-based PC applications.
10 years in the field, I landed a technology analyst job at PC Week covering
network and systems management platforms. I was honored to join a crack team,
and started work under the tutelage of Michael Surkan and John Taschek. I
picked up the art and science of reviewing the latest advances in enterprise
data center and desktop computing products. Although the management platforms I
covered were central to maintaining a data center with the lowest ratio of
staff to machines, it was clear I had a beat that only a mother-or my news counterpart
for many years, Paula Musich-could love.
I cover virtualization technologies including VMware's vSphere 4, Microsoft's
Hyper-V and the Xen family of virtualization tools. The technology embodied in
these tools carries on the grand tradition of early virtualization projects: to
remove physical barriers that limit compute capacity.
really interesting development that distinguishes modern virtualization technology
is the use of commodity hardware to create compute resource pools. Another
distinguishing feature of virtualization today is the blazing rate of change it
which cast light on the rate and scale of change in hardware computing abilities,
explains a phenomenon that seems like a quaint buggy ride compared with the
change rate in virtual IT infrastructure today. And the rate of change has
enabled a qualitative change in application deployment, backup, disaster
recovery and even application retirement. Running a data center today without
effective tools for managing the virtual and physical infrastructure is akin to
running the Titanic at normal cruise speed through an iceberg field.
clear to me that the use of data center virtualization will become standard
practice for all applications in just a few years. As this happens, effective
managment of the physical and virtual resources that make up the transformed
data center will take center stage in importance.
history of x86-based virtualization makes it easy to see why management (and
even security) has taken a backseat in the drive to implementation. Just
getting multiple virtual machines to run in the amazingly diverse ecosystem of
commodity hardware is hard enough without worrying about how to keep track.
AMD and Intel
eased virtual machine resource constraints by adding hardware extensions to
their CPUs. The latest generation of Intel CPUs based on the Xeon 5500, or
"Nehalem," family takes this support even further. But this just
emphasizes the fact that, until recently, very little "interference" from
management tools could be tolerated when getting production workloads to run
reliably on commodity hardware.
virtual machines increasingly supplant dedicated physical systems, it will be
interesting to watch the flowering of management systems that corral both physical
and virtual systems. The biggest names in the data center have long been
associated with their management platforms: BMC, CA, Dell,
IBM and HP
have always included management tools to ensure that the underlying compute
infrastructure was up and running. Now virtual machine managers will be added
to this mix. The
data center of the past 25 years will resemble the data center of the next 25
years in that it will have a physical existence. But the location and
capabilities of the data center we are creating today will be vastly more
flexible and capable because of virtualization.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.