Server Virtualization: A Five-Year Roadmap

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-12-02

Server Virtualization: A Five-Year Roadmap

LAS VEGAS-Because the virtualization of IT infrastructure now is so pervasive and integral to the daily operation of data centers, it would behoove IT managers to take a look at the next five years and get a projection of where trends in this technology might be heading.

So, Thomas Bittman, a Gartner data center research vice president, on Dec. 2 dared to look into the future and report-based on IT trends of the past-what he believes will happen.

"Only two or three years ago, almost all virtualization was relegated to testing and development. Now we figure that a full 70 percent of all data centers are using virtual machines of some sort in production," Bittman told a crowded room of attendees at the Gartner Data Center Conference here at the MGM Grand Hotel.

Virtualization is a major paradigm shift from conventional single-purpose application servers to a pool of computing power that encompasses a few or numerous servers, enabling notable performance gains and a lessening of the electrical energy used to run them.

"By 2012, at least 14 percent of the infrastructure and operations architecture of Fortune 1000 companies will be managed and delivered much like a cloud-computing provider, internally (service-oriented, paid by usage, scalable, elastic and shared)," Bittman wrote in a report that accompanied his presentation.

This technology is called a "private cloud," a spinoff of already well-utilized public clouds, such as those provided by and Google.

Private cloud computing differs from the mainstream version in that smaller, cloudlike IT systems within a firewall offer similar services, but to a closed internal network. This network may include corporate or division offices, other companies that are also business partners, raw material suppliers, resellers, production-chain entities and other organizations intimately connected with a corporate mother ship.

Installed VM Base Will Grow Tenfold by 2011

Another of Bittman's strategic planning assumptions for the next five years: The installed base of VMs will grow more than tenfold between 2007 and 2011. And by 2012, the majority of x86 server workloads will be running in a VM.

"It is the most important and impact [-causing] trend in infrastructure and operations through 2012-changing how you manage, how [and] what you buy, how you deploy, how you plan, how you charge. It also shakes up the industry, in terms of licensing, pricing and component management," Bittman said.

Virtualization, however, is merely an enabler to some other important future trends, he said. Because virtualization creates a pool of manageable, flexible capacity, automation should take that pool of resources and do useful work, based on business policies and service-level requirements.

Also, the decoupling created by virtualization combined with defined service offerings and automation is a great enabler of cloud computing, Bittman said.

Five Years Out-in Bullet Points

Bittman laid out the following eight bullet points that describe the nature of computing and storage virtualization over the next five years:

-Virtualization is a change agent, not just a tool for consolidation purposes.
-It requires planning and vision, and managers need to be proactive with it.
-It must be managed closely to guard against virtual machine sprawl.
-It requires close alignment between the IT shop and the enterprise, or your IT effort may be wasted.
-Pricing and licensing are in a quandary now, but enterprises and vendors will adjust over time.
-Beware of nervous hardware and software vendors who may use lock-in tactics to sell big boxes and support a "grand vision" hype.
-Sourcing of services in the cloud will become more granular and dynamic, thanks largely to faster applications enabled by virtualized data centers.
-We are now entering an era of experimentation with virtualization, as vendors try out new ways of delivery, development, and pricing and licensing.

Lastly, Bittman closed the session with some words of wisdom: "When it comes to running a data center and making all these decisions, be a scientist-not a subject."

Rocket Fuel