2016: A Look Ahead
2015 could be seen as the year virtualization technology moved from being something of interest to being an established part of industry-standard datacenters.
- By Dan Kusnetzky
2015 could be seen as the year virtualization technology moved from being something of interest to being an established part of industry-standard datacenters. This trend isn't at all surprising; it was observed when virtualization technology became a standard foundation used in mainframe installations in the 1960s and 1970s. It was observed again in midrange Unix and single-vendor computing environments in the 1980s and 1990s. So it makes sense that it would happen again when virtualization has become incorporated into industry-standard, x86-based computing environments.
The outcome of this change will be more discussions of interoperability, manageability and security in virtual computing environments, rather than vendors touting their own stack of software and making enterprises sort out how to make everyone's technology play nice.
It also means the industry is likely to hear more about how the technology has improved or optimized what enterprises are doing, rather than merely hearing that they've started to use the technology.
Here's a review of what you're likely to hear during 2016, one layer at a time.
Access Virtualization: Work is being done on a large collection of end-user access point devices. In the past, PCs and laptops were the primary end-user computing devices and access points. It's clear that more work is being done using smartphones, tablets and an increasing number of other form factors.
I expect to hear how all of these end-user platforms are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into enterprise computing environments. Look for program and product announcements from a number of suppliers, including Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware.
Application Virtualization: Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 hard, and is ramping up to push Windows Server 2016. Enterprises are facing difficult choices when it comes to their own custom applications or packaged applications purchased long ago from suppliers that are either no longer in business or have been acquired by other firms. Application virtualization technology can be one solution, and suppliers such as AppZero and Microsoft are doing their best to be thought of first.
Processing Virtualization: The industry pendulum has finally swung away from "virtual machine (VM) software is the answer to every question," to a more balanced view that there are many types of processing virtualization technology. While VM technology will continue to be very important, other technology, such as OS virtualization and partitioning (OSVP) or parallel processing/cluster/grid-computing software will once again be prominent.
Having gone through this type of painful transition many times, enterprises are looking for better ways to encapsulate individual applications (rather than entire server or client environments) so that they can be more easily migrated from one OS to another, or from one OS version to another. OSVP in the form of containers is something we can expect to hear a great deal about in 2016. Look for announcements from Microsoft, Oracle, VMware and the Linux distributors.
Storage Virtualization: The interest in storage virtualization, sometimes spoken of as software-defined storage (SDS), is going to be a hotly contested area. As storage becomes increasingly virtualized it's going to migrate back into system configurations. We can expect to hear a great deal about "converged," "hyperconverged" or even "ultra-hyperconverged" solutions in 2016. Cisco, Dell, VMware, Microsoft and Nutanix are likely to play this card in 2016.
Expect companies such as Citrix/Sanbolic and DataCore to announce technology to make it easier for enterprises to use many different types of storage technology as if they were simply part of a pool of resources. DataCore is going to push its storage performance through parallel I/O hard in 2016.
Network Virtualization: As with storage virtualization, I expect to hear more about how network virtualization is going to be used to bring networking technology back into servers rather than being relegated to separate network servers. The vendors will be waving the software-defined networking (SDN) banner, or perhaps throw it into their converged-systems story.
Software-Defined XYZ: As virtualization technology makes it more easily possible to create agile computing environments, in which functions appear in multiple places or move from place to place to improve performance and reliability, expect to hear more announcements about the software-defined datacenter, or SDDC. Suppliers such as Microsoft and VMware are hoping that they'll be selected to lead the band, and that their music will be selected as the one and only standard. It's unlikely that either one of them will win in 2016.
Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.