How have Virtualization and Cloud evolved differently?

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade talking about the virtues and benefits of virtualization. As one of the early employees with VMware, a big part of my job responsibilities were to evangelize and help customers/partners/analysts and the industry-at-large understand what virtualization could mean for them.

 

In the beginning, the virtualization industry and concepts were immature. Virtualization was a paradigm shift. Even believers were only willing to try it out on a very limited scale and for non-critical workloads. Imagine the looks I got when I mentioned concepts such as VMotion—where live workloads could be migrated from one physical server to another without disruptions, thus freeing up maintenance windows and had no impact to end users. I was viewed with suspicion at best, and often I would get stares as if I had just smoked something mind altering outside the meeting room.

 

We have certainly come long way from those days—virtualization is mainstream today. I would even argue that server virtualization technology has become a commodity. With Intel and AMD  including virtualization-enabling code in their respective chipsets. Thus enabling many other players to emerge—giving customers greater choice and flexibility. It also reduced the overhead often associated with the pure software-based hypervisor of the last decade. Every hypervisor vendor has technologies equivalent to VMware's VMotion technology; both manually and automated workload-performance based. Of course, performance and security need to be constantly re-amped with every new iteration.

 

The relationship between virtualization and cloud

 

Few years ago, as cloud became part of mainstream conversations everyone wanted to know how their virtualized environments fit into their cloud initiatives. Virtualization is certainly one of the major catalysts for cloud enablement, yet cloud computing is so much more. Today, most customers and industries have realized that the benefits of cloud are much more than simple consolidation efforts.

 

Similarly the path to cloud also includes other pieces beyond simply virtualization. Cloud adoption, technology, acceptance and the general cultural shift to cloud resembles where virtualization was in the early 2000's. Everyone is intrigued, the promises are great and real challenges are solved. However, without planning and the right technology partner, the realization of those cloud benefits cannot be fulfilled.

 

The role of “Business as Usual” in technology adoption

 

 One big glaring difference between how virtualized data centers matured and how cloud is being adopted is that IT had the luxury of operating with business as usual (BAU) the first go around. When virtualization on x86 servers was first introduced, many IT organizations decided to go with BAU—many for good reasons. IT had concerns. Virtualization on x86 was about a paradigm shift and IT was worried about security, governance, compliance, performance and availability. IT took time to understand the technology, build their own internal practices of excellence around virtualization, dabbled with the technology a bit and in many cases took their sweet time as BAU stood in the way.

 

With Cloud, IT has similar things to worry about—and not just for infrastructure elements—but with the entire stack of IT services. Cloud is even a bigger paradigm shift, however, as I mentioned, there is one BIG difference. End users have choice—BAU is no longer an option this time around. Shadow IT (where end users can simply go and procure services from compute to platform and applications) is accelerating the adoption of Cloud.

 

The risks are much higher this time around as well. We need to move forward, we have no choice. Yet, we still need to make sure IT’s responsibilities are still being fulfilled. The real value of Cloud is all about agility - in today's instant-on world—services need to be delivered at the pace at which end user's demand. This demand is driving the march towards cloud computing. 

 

Cloud is more than consolidation

 

Harnessing the true benefits of Cloud Computing requires more than just the consolidation of the infrastructure compute resources with virtualization. Cloud requires efficiencies and changes in people and process along with technology advances. We need a clear understanding of current costs and the costs involved in a consumption or hybrid-consumption and build model. I wrote in an earlier post about the importance of security when it comes to cloud adoption. Without true security measures and a partner who can address a customer’s end-to-end needs, the promises of Cloud cannot be fulfilled.

 

At the HP Discover conference in Frankfurt last week, we spoke at the importance of the three C’s – choice, confidence and consistency. While these might sound marketing terms—they are the driving forces behind HP’s cloud strategy.

 

We do not want to just provide lip service to customer’s ability to choose—the choice of architecture, operating systems, virtualization or platform. We want to provide our customers a seamless enterprise grade service commitment—the end-user should not be bothered with where services are being procured. Instead they should have a unified experience regardless of the underlying delivery model.

 

We also believe in open standards and not just “HP’s standards” (or any other vendor’s for that matter). Customers should have the ability to leverage the delivery model and the providers of their choosing to accommodate their shifting workload requirements. They should also be able to manage and secure these services in a comprehensive fashion. Finally, we believe that a right decision is the decision made for business reasons—not for the sake of accommodating a narrow vision of a technology vendor. 

 

 

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About the Author
Shakeeb "Shak" is responsible for HP's Cloud Solutions as Sr. Product Marketing Executive. He helps strategize HP's future directions around...


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