Experts See Link Between Virtualization, SOA

Is virtualization the "key enabler" for SOA?

Virtualization has proved itself in the data center, where companies are deploying the technology as a way to consolidate hardware, save on power and cooling costs, and enhance disaster recovery capabilities.

Now, industry observers say, virtualization will play a key role in the growing SOA (service-oriented architecture) movement. In fact, David Greschler, director of integrated virtualization strategy at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., calls virtualization "the key enabler for SOA."

"Everything is tied together. What virtualization does is provide a way for all these pieces [of IT infrastructure] to be separated from each other, but also to work together," Greschler said.

Those pieces he is talking about include applications, operating systems, presentation layers, virtual machines, and storage and network devices.

Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with market research firm ZapThink, said that, on the surface, theres a natural fit between SOA and virtualization because SOA is essentially a form of application virtualization.

Applying the corresponding techniques to server and storage virtualization is a natural fit, he said.

"However, the primary roadblock to putting these approaches together is that the conversations have been heretofore quite separate," Bloomberg said. "The architects working on SOA havent been involved in the virtualization discussions, and vice versa."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about how SOA got a boost.

However, the fact that virtualizations emergence as a popular track at SOA events is a sign that that division is breaking down, Bloomberg said. For example, at the SOA World Conference and Expo in New York June 25-27, more than a dozen sessions were on a track dedicated to virtualization.

"The big win is in the performance and flexibility that enterprises will need to scale their SOA implementations," Bloomberg said. Jonathan Clark, founder, president and chief technology officer of Thinstall, a San Francisco-based maker of application virtualization technology, agreed. "The way we see it, [virtualization] is the ability to package up an environment into an isolated area," Clark said.

Greschler said Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., wants to get its customers and users the virtualization they need. "There is a diversity of virtualization, and management is your map. Management is the key," he said.

Greschler, who spoke at the SOA show in New York, estimated that in 2006, about 1 million virtualized servers were in production last year. "That number is going to skyrocket in the next couple of years," he said.

Microsoft will provide virtualization with the next version of its server operating system, Windows Server 2008, Greschler said. "And well ship 10 million copies of the OS by 2010," he said.

Moreover, Greschler said there will be multiple stages of adoption. The first stage will involve users who realize they can save money with virtualization.

"Our perception is that people are trying to optimize and reduce fixed cost, so virtualization helps," said Toufic Boubez, co-founder and CTO of Layer 7 Technologies, a Washington-based company that offers XML security and networking for SOA (service-oriented architecture) and Web 2.0 environments.

"[In the second stage,] as you virtualize more and more things, everything becomes data," Greschler said.

"Very few customers are at the third stage, which we call dynamic IT, which is this virtualized fabric," Greschler said.

At this level resides concepts such as policy-based management and the enablement of self-managing virtualized systems, he said.

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