Data Center Innovation: Is Virtualization the latest hype or a key step forward in Data Center transformation?

Data Center Innovation: Is Virtualization the latest hype or a key step forward in Data Center transformation?

Members of the technology development community, sometimes take the press at face value. In other cases, we accept the press, new media and old, for what they are, journalists. Journalists ultimately commissioned to sell eyeballs and provoke "cocktail chatter" over their brilliant prose. The question that it has always left upon me, as a member of this community of technology developers, do they really understand what we do? Do they understand or even care about the countless hours required to think of the next great technological innovation, determine the markets for its application, build an ecosystem to sustain, and continue to innovate in the face of dwindling profits and increasing competition. Clayton Christenson calls this the "Innovator's Dilemma"....though I am not sure he has ever felt the "sting" of the dilemma....better to write the story then live through it I suppose.

Virtualization has become the latest "grist" for the technology journalist "mill". VMWare, a 7-year "overnight" success story, led by the engineering team of Mendel Rosenblum, Steve Herrod and their "Captain" Diane Greene, has captured the industry's imagination and begun to transform Data Centers around the world. This team has innovated for years behind a simple premise to enable x86 servers to be logically replicated as much as and as many times as the compute cycles will allow. Many have argued they are replicating innovation that's been done on mainframes for years and to a certain extent,...they are right. Does that make the technology advances in hypervisor development and Data Center efficiency LESS innovative? No, in my opinion, innovation is different from pioneering. The current wave of Virtualization innovators, (VMWare, Virtual Iron, SWSoft, Novell, Oracle, Sun, Microsoft, 3Leaf Systems, Citrix, etc.) owe a strong legacy to pioneers of the Atlas Project in 1961 and IBM for innovating "time sharing" and resource pooling concepts over 40 years ago. However, their innovation have exceeded far beyond the basic concepts of "logical partitioning" of compute processes to include virtual machine motioning from a single physical server to another, resource scheduling and log file innovation for higher availability and the ability to be operating system "lite" for rapid application deployment. These innovations are reducing Data Center costs as much as 50-70% in some cases. What is compelling is that these new group of innovators are transforming the traditional client/server software development models for both IT enterprises and independent software vendors.

At Intel, we spend a great deal of our time developing silicon innovations in virtualization and we are once again pushing the "innovation paradigm" by extending virtualization innovation to chipset, networking and I/O technologies. Server Platform Virtualization (processor, chipset and I/O virtualization) has benefits for the industry, software developers and individual IT managers. For the industry, it facilitates a discussion between Intel and our competitors to drive the standards and best practices discussion to deliver virtualization capabilities with meaningful impact, such as the work we are doing with PCI-SIG around I/O virtualization. For software developers Server Platform Virtualization provides opportunities for innovation and new usage models for graphics virtualization, business continuity and storage management. The IT manager realizes all of these benefits by enjoying a reduced cost deployment infrastructure, ease of use in integrated management tools and increased efficiency on power requirements. Enough benefit, enough innovation to keep the "hype machine" alive and for good reason.

What does this mean? In my opinion, Virtualization is BOTH the latest hype machine for the industry and the 1st meaningful step towards Data Center innovation in a decade. The combination of virtualization technology, multi-core energy efficient processors technologies and 10GB+ networking infrastructure will transform the way we view Data Centers, both physically and logically over the next 5 years. Beyond 2012, innovators will still face "our dilemma", journalists will find the next article to write/hype and the pioneers will (hopefully) be debating the initial findings of their 1st personal quantum computer, and many of us will be determining how to incorporate yet another key innovation into our lives in the Data Center.

For a popular history of virtualization:

For the less popular version and TCO calculator:

For additional Intel resources: