Valovic on Virtualization

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Analyze This: The Flavors of Virtualization

"I wanna say things that nobody really understands." -- Pete Townsend, Coolwalking

After being an analyst for many years I began to notice an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes I couldn't switch being an analyst off. Problem with the car? Let's generate a quick logic tree diagram and fix that puppy. Can't get the top off the pickle jar? No problem, we'll just quickly jot down a three dimensional matrix, triangulate all the variables, and have lunch...

But it wasn't just me, I found out. One day I walked into the office at IDC and fellow analysts at the proverbial water cooler were discussing a Red Sox game. But here's the thing; they weren't just talking about the game, they were analyzing it, poring over every little nuance, nook, and cranny of the previous night's game with an intensity that was impressive if also slightly depressing. (I myself would probably have been happy with "The idiots lost again".)

I guess what I'm getting at here is sometimes analysts have a tendency to complicate things. But the best analysts can cut though a market and model it, after a fashion. This is particularly useful when trying to grok an emerging market. Because what happens is you get this elephant and blind man phenomenon where there's a lot of confusion about terminology.

Emerging markets have unformed taxonomies, fuzzy competitive dynamics, and capturing all of that can be a bit like nailing jello to the wall. That's why discussing things sometimes feels like using the same language, but with slightly unintelligible and different dialects. And that's also why getting the definitions straight until industry parlance can settle in (i.e., standardize a bit) becomes really important.

The emerging virtualization market is now struggling with this problem and is fraught with semantic wormholes. But in trying to sort it out, it's usually better to start somewhere and level set on a smaller topic, rather than trying to boil the ocean.

So let's start with client virtualization. Analyst Natalie Lambert over at Forrester has come up with a good schema for getting a handle on the four major types of client virtualization. Basically it lumps four different sub-types under client virtualization:

  1. local desktop
  2. hosted desktop
  3. local application
  4. hosted application

Lambert also tosses two more types of client virtualization to the mix: OS streaming and workspace virtualization (such as what's being provided by RingCube.) She's also provided some useful definitions for both desktop and applications virtualization. Desktop virtualization is defined as

"a computing environment, consisting of an operating system, applications, and associated data, that is abstracted from the user's PC."

Simple enough, right? Application virtualization is also defined:

"An application that is abstracted from the user's OS and runs in isolation from other applications."

I know this seems like pretty basic stuff to some of you -- but trust me, definitions are going to become increasingly important as this market gets more complex and mature.

In future blogs, I'll try to tackle some other taxonomy and definitional issues. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on what some of the most challenging points of confusion are out there on the different types of virtualization.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 05/08/2008 at 12:49 PM


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