A lot of changes are happening in the IT space right now, with many of the conversations taking place in some Cloud context. What is not always clear is how much of the conversation is hype, and how much has real impact. A growing number of centralized information and information resources are shifting from Corporate Data Centers to both Public and Private Data Centers accessible over the Internet - so called Public and Private Clouds. As the shift grows, each major vendor ties marketing literature to their future "Cloud" strategy for dealing with the changing landscape, creating confusion in the market place.
The confusion becomes even more intense as the term "Cloud" is applied to technologies that have been developed to support large scale Internet accessible infrastructures becomes available to traditional IT organizations. Some may feel it safe to believe all of the Cloud talk is still just hype - but it turns out there are some real gems coming into the market place that can be lost in all of the marketing around Cloud solutions. As a result, I have stopped calling, or even thinking about, the new capabilities as Cloud capabilities - instead talking about the new technologies as Virtualization 3.0. A process which seems to make previously tenuous and shifting conversation a bit more concrete.
Virtualization 1.0 and 2.0
From my perspective, Virtualization 1.0 was mostly about hardware consolidation. As many companies who conserved resources during lean years began to consider hardware and software upgrades, conversations about consolidating hardware resources through virtualization became the accepted norm. Discussing the opportunity to reduce the amount of hardware required to support small, medium, and large organizations who were upgrading from older software and equipment became a fairly comfortable conversation - particularly as the process was proven by more and more companies. Some organizations also took the opportunity to improve reliability by relocating centralized resources to large scale datacenters or hosting platforms, but not many. So Virtualization 1.0 was mainly about hardware consolidation.
I have spent much of the past 18 months discussing the veritable Recovery Time and Recovery Point objectives I used to plan large scale datacenter environments 10 years ago - but now in the context of virtualization. Discussions often involve not only the virtualization of physical servers, but also the approach to the spectrum of infrastructure availability, ranging from High Availability, to Backup and Recovery, to Disaster recovery and Business Continuity. I now see this discussion and planning about leveraging the capabilities of virtualized environments to meet business requirements - a conversation focused on ensuring IT resources are available when they are needed dispite the unexpected - as Virtualization 2.0. Which means Virtualization 2.0 has been mostly about IT support for Business Continuity.
Conversations around the third wave of virtualization are just beginning, focusing on two specific areas: Automation and architectures required to support the increasingly large number of virtual machines being supported on fewer, more powerful hosts. Many vendors are using "Cloud" to describe these solutions: vCloud, Private Cloud, etc. primarily because the technologies now available are a direct result of investments in research and development that were required to build large, successful Public and Private Cloud infrastructures. Microsoft, VMWare, and Citrix were forced to explore new technologies in order to provide the support massive datacenter environments with thousands of individual servers required; while at the same time looking for ways to drive down costs for public and private cloud solutions supported by Advertising, Freemium, or pay-as-you-go revenue streams. The fruits of the research and development dollars are now beginning to hit the mainstream in some surprising and exciting ways. It looks like the third wave of virtualization technologies, or Virtualization 3.0, will focus on Automation and Virtualized I/O, or Virtualized Networking - both of which become much more important as Virtual Machines and hosts are able to access an ever increasing amount of RAM and CPU resources.
We will explore some of the more interesting and recent developments over the next few weeks in this series entitled "Virtualization 3.0".