Too Many Virtualizations to Handle?

Innovations 2006 Analysis: Virtualization is a hodgepodge of technologies, but nevertheless, it is hot, hot, hot in IT buying circles. While virtualization promises to make today's more powerful computers more

Editors Note: This opinion is part of a new series of stories from the reporters and editors of Ziff Davis Internet. Instead of the usual mile-high viewpoint, these articles examine a particular technology or market in transition and tell you whats in store for the year ahead.

The blind men had a heated argument over the elephant.

One was sure that the elephant was like a wall, another like a snake, another like a tree and so on.

The moral of the tale was, of course, that if you only see one side of a thing, you really dont see the whole of the thing.

Welcome to virtualization.

Depending on which vendor youre listening to, virtualization is everything from virtual storage to grids to virtual machines to utility computing and back again. So, what is it really?

According to IDCs vice president for system software, Dan Kusnetzky, its all these things and more.

In the IDC taxonomy of virtualization, there are no fewer than four components, all of which are being called virtualization technologies or VES (Virtual Environment Software) as IDC styles it, by various vendors

/zimages/1/28571.gifHP attempts to flatten the bumps in the virtualization road. Click here to read more.

These are: virtual access software, virtual application environment, virtual processing software and virtual storage software.

On top of these, vendors or service providers must also have virtual management and security programs to keep the technology working and safe.

Needless to say, this can be more than a little confusing for an IT department that is considering virtualization. And, puzzled or not, virtualization is exactly what many CIOs and CTOs are planning on as they prepare IT budgets for 2006.

IT departments are doing this to try to find "ways to use the newest in technology (processors, storage, memory, communications, and software) to improve: the application environment by increasing performance; optimizing processor utilization through workload management, scalability and reliability; increasing organizational efficiency by reducing costs of hardware, software and staff; and reducing both the number and the impact of system outages regardless of the underlying reason," said Kusnetzky.

At a recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Gartner Inc. vice president John Enck called virtualization a "megatrend."

"We see virtualization being extremely important across all server types" and "virtualization is the best tool you have right now in the market to increase efficiency and drive up the utilization of your servers," said Enck.

What all this boils down to is that virtualization should make todays more powerful computers more productive while simultaneously making them easier and cheaper to manage.

The trick is how to make this happen.

It should also be kept in mind that simply because one can virtualize IT processes, it doesnt mean that you can magically reduce your IT costs.

Thomas Bittman, a Gartner distinguished analyst, said: "Although processing power is relatively inexpensive (and getting cheaper), space, power, installation, integration and administration are not inexpensive."

So, if your company is working for some kind of magic bullet for IT costs, think again.

You also must do your homework to know exactly what it is that each virtualization technology and solution can do for your business. Simply picking something because it has that magic word in the title and comes from a first tier ISV (independent software vendor) when hoping for performance improvements and cost savings for your particular enterprise is a fools game.

/zimages/1/28571.gifIntel brings virtualization to the desktop. Click here to read more.

Lets start with what IDC calls, "Virtual Access." This is software that enables users to run applications from almost any device over just the network, without needing it to be modified.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Applications like Linux-based SafeDesk Solutions SafeDesk Server for thin-clients, Citrix Systems Inc.s Citrix Access (formerly MetaFrame) for remote Windows desktops and Salesforce.coms AppExchange for Web-based, on-demand applications are all variations on this theme.

Which one is right for you, of course, depends on your needs. For example, a company with older PCs and a need for centralized control might well look to a thin-client approach.

While, at the same time, a company that needed users working on a single CRM (customer relationship management) program might look to SugarCRM Inc.s Sugar Professional.

Next Page: Virtualization is not a "one size fits all" solution.