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Hypervisors Are Becoming a Commodity…Virtualization Is a Feature?

November 14th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Marketfeature2 A couple of weeks ago I penned a blog entry titled "The Battle for the HyperVisor Heats Up"
in which I highlighted an announcement from Phoenix Technologies
detailing their entry into the virtualization space with their
BIOS-enabled VMM/Hypervisor offering called HyperCore.

This drew immediate parallels (no pun intended) to VMware and Xen’s plans to embed virtualization capabilities into hardware.

The marketing continues this week with interesting announcements from Microsoft, Oracle and VMware:

  1. VMware offers VMware Server 2 as a free virtualization product to do battle against…
  2. Oracle offering "Oracle VM" for free (with paid support if you
    like) which claims to be 3 times as efficient than VMWare — based on
  3. Microsoft officially re-badged its server virtualization technology as Hyper-V (nee Veridian)
    detailing both a stand-alone Hyper-V Server as well technology integrated into W2K8 Server.

It seems that everyone and their mother is introducing a virtualization platform and the underpinning of commonality between basic functionality demonstrates how the underlying virtualization enabler — the VMM/Hypervisor — is becoming a commodity.

We are sure to see fatter, thinner, faster, "more secure" or more open Hypervisors, but this will be an area with less and less differentiation.  Table stakes.  Everything’s becoming virtualized, so a VMM/Hypervisor will be the underlying "OS" enabling that transformation.

To illustrate the commoditization trend as well as a rather fractured landscape of strategies, one need only look at the diversity in existing and emerging VMM/Hypervisor solutions.   Virtualization strategies are beginning to revolve around a set of distinct approaches where virtualization is:

  1. Provided for and/or enhanced in hardware (Intel, AMD, Phoenix)
  2. A function of the operating system (Linux, Unix, Microsoft)
  3. Delivered by means of an enabling software layer (nee
    platform) that is deployed across your entire infrastructure (VMware, Oracle)
  4. Integrated into the larger Data Center "Fabric" or Data Center OS (Cisco)
  5. Transformed into a Grid/Utility Computing model for service delivery

The challenge for a customer is making the decision on whom to invest it now.  Given the fact that there is not a widely-adopted common format for VM standardization, the choice today of a virtualization vendor (or vendors) could profoundly affect one’s business in the future since we’re talking about a fundamental shift in how your "centers of data" manifest.

What is so very interesting is that if we accept virtualization as a feature defined as an abstracted platform isolating software from hardware then the next major shift is the extensibility, manageability and flexibility of the solution offering as well as how partnerships knit out between the "platform" providers and the purveyors of toolsets.

It’s clear that VMware’s lead in the virtualization market is right inline with how I described the need for differentiation and extensibility both internally and via partnerships. 

VMotion is a classic example; it’s clearly an internally-generated killer app. that the other players do not currently have and really speaks to being able to integrate virtualization as a "feature" into the combined fabric of the data center.  Binding networking, storage, computing together is critical.  VMware has a slew of partnerships (and potential acquisitions) that enable even greater utility from their products.

Cisco has already invested in VMware and a recent demo I got of Cisco’s VFrame solution shows they are serious about being able to design, provision, deploy, secure and manage virtualized infrastructure up and down the stack, including servers, networking, storage, business process and logic.

In the next 12 months or so, you’ll be able to buy a Dell or HP server using Intel or AMD virtualization-enabled chipsets pre-loaded with multiple VMM/Hypervisors in either flash or BIOS.  How you manage, integrate and secure it with the rest of your infrastructure — well, that’s the fun part, isn’t it?

I’ll bet we’ll see more and more "free" commoditized virtualization platforms with the wallet ding coming from the support and licenses to enable third party feature integration and toolsets.


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