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Tales of Random Pulp and Conundrums

When we first kicked off the CTO blogs, I had serious reservations about the ability of our vendor contributors to hew the vendor-neutral line. I've been around enough to know that the temptation for vendors to go nuclear with blatantly self-serving blather sometimes overwhelms their rational minds. These days, however, most vendors have become media-savvy enough to realize that if they play by the rules, they will usually be rewarded with favorable exposure, and thus it is with our CTO crew to date.

Following are some particularly good excerpts from each of our current five CTO bloggers: Karl Triebes, CTO, F5, Alex Miroshnicenko, CTO, Virsto, Doug Hazelman, Product Strategist, Veeam Software, Simon Rust, VP of Technology, AppSense, and Jason Mattox, Vizioncore CTO.

Cloud Naysayers
Karl Triebes starts out this blog by throwing down the gauntlet to cloud providers:

"It's no secret that security is on the minds of most IT professionals who are considering cloud computing. In fact, some surveys show that as many as 80 percent of businesses believe that the security, availability, and performance risks of cloud computing outweigh the potential benefits, such as flexibility, scalability, and lower cost--so much so that they're holding back from fully embracing cloud computing, at least, for now."

Comment: Vendor neutrality at its finest.

The Voracious VM I/O Blender
Alex Miroshnichenko writes vividly about the impact virtualization has on storage:

"Disk I/O optimizations in operating systems and applications are predicated on the assumption that they have exclusive control of the disks. But virtualization encapsulates operating systems into guest virtual machine (VM) containers, and puts many of them on a single physical host. The disks are now shared among numerous guest VMs, so that assumption of exclusivity is no longer valid. Individual VMs are not aware of this, nor should they be. That is the whole point of virtualization.

"The I/O software layers inside the guest VM containers continue to optimize their individual I/O patterns to provide the maximum sequentiality for their virtual disks. These patterns then pass through the hypervisor layer where they get mixed and chopped in a totally random fashion. By the time the I/O hits the physical disks, it is randomized to the worst case scenario. This happens with all hypervisors.

"This effect has been dubbed the "VM I/O blender". It is so-named because the hypervisor blends I/O streams into a mess of random pulp. The more VMs involved in the blending, the more pronounced the effect."

Comment: You gotta love the imagery of hypervisors blending I/O streams into a "mess of random pulp"--as long as they're someone else's I/O streams, of course.

To Virtualize or Not Virtualize...
Doug Hazelman ponders the pros and cons of physical versus virtual:

"Truth be told, virtualization is still a "young" technology. Who would have even dreamed of a 100% virtualized data center in 2004? At the current rate that virtualization is being adopted, though, I think we're close to the tipping point. If the history of IT tells us anything, it's that new, disruptive technologies can be somewhat slow to get started, but then see a tremendous surge (a wave if you will) of adoption.

"Think of the transition from dumb terminals to the PC. It didn't happen overnight, but took several years. It took several more years for the x86 platform to take over mainframes and become the standard for all new applications in the data center. True, mainframes aren't gone, so I don't think we'll see physical servers going the way of the dodo, but I still feel that there's no reason why 99 percent of your x86 infrastructure can't be virtualized.

"So today we have a "chicken and egg" situation. If vendors support both physical and virtual infrastructures, are they prolonging their reliance on the physical? Should software companies that already have solutions for physical systems have to adopt virtualization? For software companies that focus purely on virtualization, does it make sense for them to "back fill" and support physical systems? How many new software companies were "born" out of the x86 adoption wave? How many of them also supported mainframes?"

Comment: This is not a situation that lends itself to definitive rights and wrongs, as much as it does to savvy business plans and well-executed market strategies.

Users Rule
Simon Rust emphasizes the overarching importance of the user experience and the conundrum that stands in its way:

"Say for instance, yesterday the applications were all locally installed on the desktop, provided as delivered/packaged MSI's or even installed by IT from CD/DVD/USB drive. Therefore, all applications were locally installed with no isolation from each other, which meant that there were no integration worries when it came to applications being aware of each other. But this usually creates issues relating to incompatibilities between the applications, and in many ways this is exactly why application virtualization vendors exist today. Here we have created a Catch-22 situation in that the very technology that we created to fix application compatibility issues causes an application incompatibility issue, making the desktop harder to manage for the user.

"It can be argued that the user experience is without question the MOST important aspect of a desktop delivery, and this remains the same whether the desktop is physical or virtual. Studies have shown that if the user does not accept the solution during proof of concept or pilot, then the adoption of virtual desktops will simply not be accepted in that enterprise.

"In order to find the balance between delivering the best user experience and reducing desktop management costs, some form of Virtual User Infrastructure (VUI) needs to be implemented. The role of this would be to pull together the various forms of application virtualization at the desktop (regardless of whether that desktop is virtual, physical, terminal services or even a mixture of these) and enable the user to use the applications without being hampered by the aforementioned interoperability challenge. VUI is all about ensuring the user has a pleasant desktop experience.

Comment: It's nice to know that the success or failure of desktop virtualization vendors depends on them satisfying the stringent requirements of users.

Jason Mattox leaves us with this practical piece of advice:

"Migrating your hosts to ESXi is not enough to get improved performance. Before making any moves, make sure your third-party software can function effectively in the new environment. By doing your homework before moving to a new virtual house, you'll be able to sleep soundly once you're there, knowing that your backups and other systems are running effectively."

Comment: Amen.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 08/11/2010 at 12:48 PM


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