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Virtualisation – history & predictions

01 Apr 2010

This old-school method of computing was mostly due to the traditional way of provisioning applications – the accepted rule was that you could only ever run one application on one server. The problem with this concept was that each application would only use a very small amount of the computing power available, leading to usage rates averaging between 5-15% , with up to 90% of computing resources wasted. Even today this is still the status quo in many organisations and as a result of this approach thousands of organisations are powering, managing and maintaining servers which hardly break into a sweat! A little over 10 years ago VMware entered the market and introduced server virtualisation, which fundamentally removed the bond between the operating system and the hardware, allowing a single piece of hardware to host multiple operating systems and applications. Through the use of virtualisation software, organisations were able to create multiple virtual servers and run them simultaneously on a single physical server, and depending on the workloads, the consolidation ratios can be as high as 30:1. Applying this approach allows businesses to get a much greater return on their investment from their IT infrastructures, not to mention a more sustainable impact on the environment. However, server consolidation was just one of the many benefits of virtualisation, and is just the beginning of what this technology has to offer. Server virtualisation also allows IT to align to organisations’ business needs, by enabling quicker provisioning, increased uptime, more flexibility and significantly more performance over physical deployments. Organisations of all sizes, from SMBs to the enterprise, can use server virtualisation to significantly reduce the cost of deploying new applications, providing access to technologies and business practices, such as robust disaster recovery, that were previously impractical and unaffordable. It can also ensure that an IT infrastructure can grow with the organisation without the need for technically demanding application migration to bigger and better hardware. In reality many organisations began by virtualising only their test and development environments, but very quickly realised the benefits and extended virtualisation into the production environment, ultimately including virtualisation of mission-critical applications such as SAP, Exchange, Oracle and SQL. At this point, customers understood that it wasn’t just about the upfront licensing costs but about the total solution cost and the business benefits which can be reaped by taking a long-term approach. When you consider the significantly higher consolidation ratios that virtualisation enables, it becomes very apparent that it not only allows organisations to do much more with significantly less hardware, and also delivers considerable capital and operational expenditure savings. As an example, reports show that customers reduce their energy costs and consumption by up to 80% through virtualisation. Today, the widespread acceptance and proliferation of server virtualisation has been reached. Customers are now articulating the desire for cloud computing infrastructures, where IT will ultimately be delivered truly as a service. Customers are realising that their IT landscape will include a mix of both private and public cloud offerings. They want this hybrid world to be more easily managed and to have the right balances between efficiency, scalability, security, and control. Although concerns still remain around the cloud, this year we will see vendors, systems integrators and certification agencies rally to meet this demand. We will also see virtualisation penetrating more broadly and deeply across the enterprise. This year for example, we will start to see the mainstream adoption of virtualisation on the desktop. This will allow IT departments to begin provisioning desktops as a service, and give employees the ability to securely and remotely access the enterprise desktop environment from their preferred device, from any location. Over the long term this will reduce investments in hardware and greatly simplify the management of desktop environments. The latest frontier in this evolution is the virtualisation of mobile and smartphones. This vision will see mobile devices running both a private and a work operating system and profile at the same time, and even running two operating systems on the same smartphone device. With people using these devices as both a PC and a phone, this vision will extend the ability for employees to access the enterprise anytime and anywhere. Ultimately virtualisation has revolutionised and will continue to revolutionise traditional IT, ushering in a new era of computing which will be dramatically simplified and tightly aligned to a business’s objectives. In this new paradigm, the ability to harness the power of IT will be a key driver of competitive advantage and a key element of business success.