2010: What's Hot and What's Not
As virtualization becomes more mainstream, there are many anticipated developments and advancements on the horizon. Here's a brief lay of the land, in addition to players you should watch for in the coming year.
Better network infrastructure management, Physical-to-Virtual (P2V) and dynamic provisioning. There are several vendors working in these areas to make it easier to deploy new virtual machines (VMs) and complete virtual infrastructures. One newcomer to watch is LineSider.com, as it works to virtualize network infrastructures. VMware's vNetwork Distributed Switch in vSphere can centrally manage virtual networking features of all of its hosts and VM instances. And Novell's PlateSpin Orchestrate continues to be one of the best ways to start, stop, migrate or clone VMs across VMware, Microsoft and Xen environments. Microsoft is playing catch-up with Hyper-V, and now includes a live migration feature to move a VM from one host to another.
Better VM policy-management tools. As virtualization becomes more pervasive, you may need additional granularity and security to prevent employees from gaining access to your infrastructure. This is where third-party tools can come in handy. HyTrust's appliance can protect access to the hypervisor, while VMware's vShield Zone appliance protects guest VMs. Finally, Microsoft's new System Center Essentials 2010 has improvements that make Hyper-V's policy management more flexible.
VM Licensing can only get better-or at least more understandable. It's hard to say who has the more inscrutable licensing, Microsoft or VMware. There's a growing feature gap between free and fee versions, especially once you load up your hosts with management apps, operating systems and user-application licenses. One of the advantages of going with Hyper-V running on the Enterprise version of Windows Server 2008 is that you can have unlimited free licenses for your guest Windows VMs, which can add up to a significant savings. We can only hope that both vendors simplify their licensing in the coming year.
More selection on hypervisors that are pre-installed on servers. Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant and IBM BladeCenter all offer a selection of rack-mounted servers with either VMware ESX or Citrix XenServer. A few vendors are starting to look at pre-loading Hyper-V, too. Look for bigger and better servers from these and other server vendors in the coming year.
Hypervisor scalability and performance improvements. As people build larger and more complex VM infrastructures, it's nice that the latest versions of all hypervisor products will come with full 64-bit goodness inside and support more CPUs. (Hyper-V supports up to 64 logical processors and 384 concurrent VMs, although building a server that can handle that large a workload could be a challenge.) Look for more capable hypervisors in the future. As an example, VMware vLockstep adds high-availability mirroring on two different hosts. And the Cisco Unified Computing System platform allows for high-density VM configurations: It can handle 384GB of RAM and doesn't require the purchase of four CPU licenses for hypervisors, saving some money in the long term.
Continued maturing of application-virtualization tools. This includes layering and applications streaming in real time. It also includes protection, so you can run multiple versions of the same app, provide better support for offline users and reduce licensing expenses of desktop apps. Microsoft App-V, Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite, Citrix XenApp and VMware ThinApp will all see big improvements in 2010. There's a great comparison chart from Sven Huisman of these and a few other application-virtualization tools available here.
As you can see, a lot is happening, so look for bigger and better virtualization tools in the coming year.
David Strom is an industry veteran trade journalist who's been editor in chief at Network Computing, Tom's Hardware and DigitalLanding.com. In addition, he's written two computer books and many articles for IT journals and Web sites.