I expect that the current recession will last through all of 2009 and will accelerate the adoption of virtualization technology.
Up until now, virtualization--especially x86 server virtualization--has been pushed forward by the huge hardware and operational savings accrued from app server consolidation. Sadly, the consolidation of whole businesses will likely become one of the main drivers of virtualization in the year ahead.
For IT managers at acquiring companies, virtualization will become a tool for onboarding IT assets without bringing along old servers, murky networks and a hodgepodge of management tools.
Virtualization isn't the only technology that will get pushed ahead by the current economic crisis. Cloud computing--of which virtualization is a building block--will also get a push. For virtualization and cloud computing, bad economic times will be the impetus that moves these tools out of "test and dev" environments and into production on a scale that hasn't previously been seen. (Companies that survive this downturn will demonstrate the "killer app" for virtualization.) This may also be true of cloud computing, but for slightly different reasons.
What kind of virtualization am I talking about? It's clear that the biggest proven productivity gains can be found in server virtualization, followed by application virtualization. My initial work with desktop virtualization indicates it's too soon to say that this type of virtualization technology will yield operational or infrastructure savings on the same scale as for servers.
For server and application virtualization, the key next step is to ensure IT control over the VM life cycle to prevent so-called VM sprawl. IT managers who are used to being praised for the huge equipment and operational savings accrued from implementing server virtualization solutions from VMware, Citrix XenServer and now Microsoft Hyper-V are facing the task of preserving these savings with effective and efficient VM management. This will be become virtualization Job No. 1 in 2009.
It's worth asking if 2009 will present a "green field virtualization opportunity" for IT. The answer is yes, but only if IT managers successfully make a business case. Start by going back to basics. The assets your company is acquiring in a business consolidation are data. The applications tied to this data are also important, but even so, less important than the data. The physical servers, network wiring, and other physical and software infrastructure are incidental to the data. The case to make is that virtualization can reduce or eliminate the amount of incidental material that must be brought onboard to continue business operations.
Over the last several years there has been a tremendous amount of consolidation in banking operations. There are a lot of financial service people who have been through a steady treadmill of acquisition in the preceding five years. IT managers who work at acquiring companies should hire these people to gain their onboarding experience.
Virtualization is a building block of cloud computing. Another building block is applications that can work in a multitenant environment. For enterprise IT managers, the urgency of moving to cloud computing is not as clear for me. If an organization already owns the data center and is experiencing rapid cost savings through virtualization, moving to the cloud seems disruptive with little payback. However, it's clear that increased use of virtualization in 2009 will make moving to the cloud at some future point much less disruptive. Thus I put the cloud in the "strategic" category and one that is in complete harmony with virtualization efforts underway today.
Virtualization isn't going to save companies that are up against the wall. It will help acquiring companies gain control of IT assets in an efficient and flexible manner. Over the course of 2009, virtualization will become embedded in the way we run data centers and will set the stage for moving applications to the most cost-effective hosting center, whether that be at a data center you own or a service provider that acts as a utility. There can be no question that 2009 will be marked as the year that virtualization encompassed fundamental IT operations. I look forward to exploring with you the methods and techniques that will keep successful IT managers one step ahead of the competition.