VMWorld Forecast: Partly “Cloudy” with a chance for change

Each year for the last 10 years, the innovators of VMWare, have hosted a users and partner conference to discuss virtualization technologies, ideas and services for the IT industry. This years event, in Las Vegas, brought together over 14,000 of the world's foremost thought leaders, developers and users from around the world. As the "Virtualization World" converged on Las Vegas their was a prevailing forecast that has begun to permeate our virtualization landscape: Cloud Computing. Paul Maritz, in his initial keynote address as CEO of VMWare, outlined the importance Cloud computing and the role that VMWare and their customers will play in defining the Enterprise Computing "forecast" over the next several years. It was a thoughtful direction for the world's leading innovator in virtualization software technology. I personally found it rather gratifying to see Mr. Maritz thoughtful demeanor and acknowledgement of the VMWare Co-Founders Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum, role in shaping this new direction. His understated prose also failed to acknowledge the role he himself has played over the years in establishing this direction.....it also clearly placed in my mind why he may be the ideal leader to help us realize the forecast for cloud-based compute models.

So what does it all mean? Cloudy forecasts are always difficult to predict and predictions can become self-fulfilling prophecies or embarassing missteps. What is clear, in my opinion, is that Cloud computing will drive meaningful change across a wide range of industries in rapid succession.

Let me explain the logic: Organizing and managing compute, network and application usage models has been a very elusive endeavor for many years. IT departments cannot always predict application load, network requirements and storage availability. If you provision for the worst (or highest use) case scenario you often over build. In other cases, application popularity or changing business conditions create under capacity and infrastructure failure. Those of us who have launched Application Service Provisioning infrastructures bear the scars of failures, excitement of success and hope for the future. VMWare, Microsoft, EMC, Google, Amazon and many others have made a concerted effort to "get it right" this time. Cloud infrastructures using virtualization technologies are providing a opportunistic ways for developers and end users to test scalability theories of traditional client/server compute models. These same "Clouds" are providing internal cost reduced resource infrastructures to make available vast computing, network and application resources for everyday usage with relatively low entry points (a la Amazon's EC2). However, determining which part of the "Cloud" to make available for public vs. internal consumption will be defined by innovative new technologies that have yet to be announced. Interoperability, compatibility, performance and scalability are all design points which the industry must consider.

Visionaries in this space abound: Vin Cerf (deserves more credit than he is given), Ray Ozzie, Reuven Cohen (you may not of heard of him yet), Alan Gin, Marc Benioff, Ed Bugnion, K.B. Chandrasekhar, Pete Manca and many others have been working diligently for years behind the scenes to make the promise of Cloud computing real. Industries such as Big Pharma, Telecom, Financial Services and Oil & Gas will reap tremendous benefit from well defined industry "clouds". The role of ethernet will be a critical design point for these next generation infrastructures as 10Gbe+ reduces latency, response times and delivers application QoS. At Intel, we are very proud of our engineering and process manufacturing prowess for the development of multi-core compute technologies, rightfully so in my opinion, but the future of the "Cloud" will challenge us to re-examine our design methodology, increase our price-performance-per watt cadence and deliver exciting new innovations throughout our server/client platforms.

Virtualization innovation has provided a "sliver lining" for today's Cloud infrastructures. Where there is transitions or inflection points in the technology industry, there is opportunity. At VMWorld 2008, the virtualization industry has begun the process of delivering technologies in a world beyond the hypervisor. Virtualization 2.0 as outlined by Doug Fisher, Intel VP of Software and Solutions Group and Steve Herrod, CTO of VMWare is a step towards providing the innovation required to make Cloud infrastructures real. The next steps, the new pioneers ( a la Simon Crosby of Citrix) are building tools which provide increased ROI in decreased cycle times for IT managers. The future of the IT cloud is in their capable hands and in the hands of the IT innovators within each company focused on providing compute infrastructures designed to scale (and shrink) with the businesses we serve. VMWorld has yet to disappoint, in 2008, VMWorld reminds us that even on a "Cloudy" day there is a chance for change.

Here's a short video talking to Dave Martin of VMware around VT Flex Migration....

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