2. Better clustering through higher availability.
As virtualization becomes more the rule rather than the exception in corporate data centers, the three vendors are making it easier to add high availability features to their hypervisors and virtual servers.
All three vendors have strengthened their ability to provide more capable disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity services using their server virtualization line of products. These have lots of appeal for enterprises that previously would have either considered a full DR solution too expensive or who are using regular tape backups and finding them cumbersome.
A combination of services -- including high availability, virtual storage management and near-term server failover -- that were previously only the province of very expensive and customized clustered configurations are now available in the virtual world and can serve as a good substitute for many enterprise's DR applications, too. This is because VMs are easily portable and replicated across the Internet, so you can quickly get a secondary site up and running when the primary server has failed.
One of the issues with custom clustering solutions is that they require identical hardware and operating system versions for each physical machine that was part of the cluster. Virtualized servers are more forgiving and flexible, not to mention less expensive. Another issue is that many clusters required very high-speed Internet links to support a remote DR site -- virtualized solutions are also less demanding of connectivity.
3. Private clouds are here.
The vendors are virtualizing more and more pieces of the datacenter and include virtual network switches (what VMware calls vShield Zones) so that your network traffic never leaves the virtualized world but can still have some of the same level of security that your physical network has. You can set up firewalls that stay with the VMs as they migrate between hypervisors, create security policies, and set up virtual LANs and other tasks. Think of setting up a security perimeter around your virtual datacenter. VMware has a series of what it calls its vCloud products to make creating and managing virtual private clouds easier. Citrix is touting the fact that they power Amazon's Web Services, perhaps the largest public cloud computing instance. They have partnered with Rackspace to deliver a private cloud offering.
Microsoft is somewhat behind the curve but they have lined up an impressive collection of third-party hosting providers that will sell you virtualized apps online. They have boosted their Live services offerings in the past several months too. They also acquired Opalis at the end of last year, and are incorporating their datacenter workflow automation platform into their own management tools. You can download a free trial of the software here.
Two new entrants to the cloud computing services arena are Hexagrid VxDataCenter and ReliaCloud, both of which offer a wide range of infrastructure services including high availability, hardware firewalls, and load balancing too.