Citrix, Red Hat and Sun all tried to keep pace via acquisitions, and virtualization started to spread beyond the data center to desktops. All of that activity was merely a preamble to what is shaping up to be an even more active virtualization year in 2009. Here are ten trends to watch for:
1. The bad economy will be a boon for virtualization.
Virtualization will gain IT dollars at the expense of other technologies for one reason: cost. Technologies that require high upfront expenditures but take time to generate ROI will be put on hold, while technologies like virtualization that promise immediate cost savings will enjoy broader adoption.
Even with analysts calling virtualization a mainstream technology already, there is still a lot of opportunity out there. Scott Crenshaw, Red Hats VP of the Platform Business Unit, estimates that only 10% of the worlds servers have been virtualized, and most of those involved relatively simple workloads.
Frances Karamouzis, research VP with research firm Gartner, believes that virtualization is well positioned for the coming year, but she points out that licensing continues to be an obstacle. The software licensing model from vendors like SAP is designed to maximize vendor revenues. If you run SAP on ten servers, virtual or not, you pay for ten licenses. In other words, you pay for over-provisioning, for failover and backups. Customers will start to rebel against these pricing schemas, she predicted. Theyll demand to pay-per-use pricing models.
2009 should be the year that licensing models finally evolve to accommodate technologies like virtualization and utility computing.
2. CIOs will remember that theres storage out there to virtualize.
Storage is the forgotten stepchild of virtualization. Its not as easy as server virtualization. Not as obvious as desktop virtualization, and not as sexy as mobile virtualization.
Storage is boring but its essential and its a big opportunity for future virtualization efforts.
3. VMware will continue to evolve into an infrastructure provider for cloud computing.
In September VMware rolled out its virtual datacenter operating system, or VDC OS. This is not a product in and of itself, but rather a set of features and capabilities available in VMwares portfolio.
Cynics say that VDC OS is all about marketing, with few new features, and they have a point. What VDC OS also does, though, is point to VMwares future roadmap. VMware believes that its technologies will be the core infrastructure that enables future IT models, such as cloud and utility computing.
Leena Joshi, senior product marketing manager for VMware, put it this way when we spoke in 2008: Enterprises dont care about the application or the OS as such. What enterprises want are productivity and performance. What they want are service levels that can be agreed upon and measured. They care about performance parameters, about downtime, about charge-backs. Our vision of cloud computing is that applications will become platform agnostic. It wont matter where they physically reside, where users access them from, or even what devices those users choose.
A poor economy could come into play here. If Microsoft Vista continues to be maligned, if IT dollars stay tight, and if VMware and some Linux-based partners offer alternatives that stretch from the data center through to the client, customers might make the shift, especially if open-source Office alternatives prove to be compatible with existing data stores and easy to manage.
4. Desktop virtualization will gain momentum.
Desktop virtualization is a case of a lot of talk and not much action. There have been some deployments here and there, but nothing major. Expect that to change in 2009.
In December VMware launched View 3, which has a number of features that makes desktop virtualization a real possibility, rather than an IT science project. Citrix, Sun, IBM and Red Hat have all been building out their desktop virtualization portfolios as well. Expect to see real traction in 2009.
5. Virtualization will become an enabling technology for service-based computing.
Its not just VMware playing up virtualizations role in cloud computing. Even foot-dragger Microsoft now believes that cloud computing is inevitable whether they like it or not.
Microsofts Windows Azure cloud computing platform is a clear indication that computing as we know it is about to change. For most of us, it already has, but Microsoft is known for market domination, not driving trends.
When I asked Scott Crenshaw of Red Hat how he sees the virtualization space evolving in the next five years or so, he summed it up as such: I see virtualization being integrated into core platforms. Management tools will have to evolve for that to happen, of course. People want one management tool for all different types of capacities, not a bunch of different discrete management tools. Finally, there will be a shift to service-based IT. Youll have a pool of capacity and a pool of applications. IT will deliver these services internally first. While I believe more general cloud computing will come into being eventually, I see the internal clouds driving this trend.