Virtualization Technology Trends
Virtualization technology has evolved extensively in the last several years. We’ve seen great advancements with server virtualization, most notably with hardware assist from CPU extensions like Intel VT-x. But we’re also seeing great advancement in networking like the ablility to virtualize network interface cards by virtualizing the PCIe bus and the ability to virtualize storage ports.
Perhaps one of the biggest virtualization technology trends is the increased need for more IOPs. With today’s CPU speeds and large memory footprints, we’re now able to consolidate more applications and VMs, increasing the workload density. However, this has necessitated the need for more storage IOPs, and thankfully, we now have flash to help address this problem. In fact, there are six ways to implement flash for virtualization:
1. SSD’s in lieu of HDDs
2. Server-side or PCIe
3. Hybrid arrays
4. All-flash arrays
5. Caching appliances
6. Flash in the storage controller
Another important trend is storage hypervisors, which are just starting to hit the street. A storage hypervisor is the concept of letting the server virtualization hypervisor run an increasingly larger portion of the storage services that are typically found in the array. The hypervisor already abstracts the physical CPU and network connections from the application, and to some extent, the physical storage as well. Why not let the hypervisor go the rest of the way and manage the storage completely? This will provide virtualization implementations with the performance of EZT (EagerZeroThick) VMDKs—but with the storage efficiency of Linked Clones.
There is also a business reason for the hypervisor vendors to take on more and more of the storage services role. These vendors see storage as a key stumbling block in greater server virtualization adoption because the storage system becomes one of the most expensive and complex components of any virtualized implementation. Expect hypervisors to continue to add more and more storage capabilities with each successive version.
The support and adoption of multiple hypervisors in organizations is another trend we often see. For example, companies with a Microsoft background will eventually run Exchange on Hyper-V; those using XenDesktop will use XenServer, and companies using JBoss will adopt Red Hat's KVM. This will cause a change in focus from the hypervisor itself to the server virtualization management layer.
Finally, orchestration represents another important trend in virtualization technology. Orchestration is often discussed as having an inherent intelligence or even implicit autonomic controls, but that’s probably more of an aspiration or an analogy rather than a good technical description. In reality, orchestration is largely the effect of automation. This can be a challenge, because orchestration requires a lot of collaboration as its functionality spans multiple functional areas including server, network and storage operations.
Our advice to CIOs with the ongoing advancement of virtualization technology is to plan architecturally but deploy incrementally.