Virtualisation – The Next Step

23rd Nov 2011

Virtualisation has been the dominant factor in data center development for the past decade. The addition of a virtual layer between physical and logical infrastructure has produced stunning achievements in data flexibility and operations efficiency.

But has the technology run its course? There has been much press about "virtual sprawl," the point at which enterprises feel they can no longer virtualise and consolidate server resources.

The reasons given range from lack of storage support for newly virtualised environments to the fear of placing critical applications on virtual infrastructure.

However, this represents limited thinking when it comes to the true benefits to be derived from virtualisation and industry experts predict that most organisations can increase their virtual footprints by between 50% and 70% by tapping into not just the infrastructure but also networking, storage and the desktop. At the same time, there is no reason why virtual systems could not support Tier 1 applications as well as traditional physical infrastructure.

Other opportunities include nested virtualisation – or virtualising virtual machines which are particularly pertinent for configuration testing and software evaluation. vSphere 5.0, for example, offers enhanced support for loading VMs into VMs to, say, check out a VMware Workstation instance inside an ESXi, and maybe throw in Hyper-V host for good measure.

Although increased virtualisation shouldn't lead to total virtualisation, some applications will only see optimal functionality on native hardware. These include apps that rely heavily on a particular resource, such as network or disk I/O, thereby limiting the resource-sharing benefits that virtualization is supposed to provide. As well, virtual desktops will only provide significant advantages over traditional desktop infrastructure if a single, generic image is shared across many users.

In conclusion, virtualisation is more than just a nifty new tool to improve data functionality. Rather, it is a fundamental change in the way data environments are designed, managed and implemented.

The longer an organisation continues to view virtualisation through the short-term lens of hardware consolidation and cost reduction, the longer it will take to position data infrastructures for the truly revolutionary capabilities the technology has to offer.