Even VMware, the leading virtualization company in the world, as well as the most ardent virtualization supporters in the analyst community, predict that in 2012 over 50% of x86 architecture server workloads will be virtual. Different reports point out that only 25% of small businesses have been virtualized, and others highlight the many challenges of virtualizing mission critical applications, new special purpose devices and legacy systems. The key point is that the world is not 100% virtual and the physical world cannot be ignored.
I find it interesting to note the large number of new vendors that have jumped squarely on the virtualization trend and have designed their solutions solely to address the virtual world. Most do not, therefore, deal with managing physical devices or support migrating from one device type to another, or support migrating back and forth between physical and virtual environments. Some nouveau virtual vendors go further and make simplifying assumptions akin to theoretical physicists – disregarding real world capabilities like Fibre Channel and assuming the world is tidy because all IT infrastructures operate in a virtual world using virtual IP traffic. These virtualization-only vendors tend to speak about an IT nirvana in which everyone and everything that is connected to this world is virtual, open and tidy – devoid of the messy details of the physical world. Does this sound anything like your IT shop?
Most IT organizations have, and will have for many years to come, a major share of their storage, desktops and a good portion of their server infrastructure running on physical systems or on applications that are not virtualized. This new “virtual is all you need” breed of vendors clearly does not want you to think about your existing base of systems or those strange Fibre Channel-connected, UNIX or NetWare systems running in the shadows. All the virtual upstarts have a simple solution – buy all new and go totally virtual. But this is not the real world most of us live in.
Virtualization solutions must work and deliver a unified user experience across both virtual and physical environments. Solutions that can’t deal with the physical device world do not work in the real world where flexibility, constant change, and migrations are the norm. While those solutions that “do” virtual will be “hot,” I predict those that can encompass the broad range of physical and virtual worlds will be even “hotter.”