I had a conversation with some folks at Intel today, and they referred to research from IDC on what Virtualization 2.0 looked like. This got me thinking. There is a tendency to take a trend like virtualization and wrap every other trend inside it. That creates a semantic nightmare, in my opinion. Virtualization does not equal cloud, cloud does not equal SOA, virtualization does not encompass management automation, etc. These are all separate trends that cross paths – they may be catalysts, they may overlap, they may actually all take us to the same place – but they are different trends, different legs of the stool. Applying service-level automation to virtualization, for example, is not a virtualization trend – it is an automation trend leveraging virtualization. The real question is – what does virtualization mean to users? What does virtualization enable? How does that change – and does it change in identifiable stages? I say it does.
Virtualization 1.0: Consolidation and cost savings. No question – the reason people first virtualize their storage, their servers, their network capacity is to save money. It’s all about being more efficient. Almost all of the early adopters I talk to about virtual machines are in it to reduce server hardware and power spending, possibly space. Often to introduce disaster recovery (because it is so much cheaper!). But, talk to these same people a year later, and they talk about…
Virtualization 2.0: Agility and speed. Saving money is great, but it often doesn’t impact the customers of IT directly – or, at least, it doesn’t help the business grow. Our clients tell us they can deploy virtual servers thirty times faster than physical. They also tell us that customer demand roughly doubles when they deliver faster – a lower barrier to entry leads to greater demand. Speed and agility also has significant impacts on management and operational processes. But after cost efficiency, and after speed, what’s next?
Virtualization 3.0: Alternate sourcing. I’d say the next big thing will be the ability to leverage the abstraction layer created by virtualization in its many forms to creatively source the function that was virtualized. In its earliest form, an example would be moving virtual machines between servers dynamically to meet demand. However, more interesting will be moving off-premise – dynamically sourcing based on cost, quality of service and agility needs. Maybe a workload is spiking dramatically. Move that workload to a cloud provider (for good, or temporarily).
Virtualization 3.0 is not cloud computing – but virtualization 3.0 is certainly one important enabler of cloud computing, among many enablers.
So what does Virtualization 4.0 look like? Have to think about that for a future post…
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