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David Marshall, who has been virtualizing for years (he even was an external alpha tester for ESX Server), has written a good overview of where we are in the adoption of virtualization, and how we got here over the last few years.

Link: Virtual Strategy Magazine – Virtualization Wars.

  • Maximize resources – Perhaps the most common problem being
    solved with virtualization today – applications are running on their
    own dedicated servers, which results in low server utilization rates
    across the server environment. Server consolidation is used to help
    maximize the compute capacity on each physical server which therefore
    increases ROI on existing and future server expenditures.
  • Test and development optimization – Test and development
    servers can be rapidly provisioned by using pre-configured virtual
    machines. By leveraging virtualization, development scenarios can be
    standardized and quickly executed upon in a repeatable fashion. It also
    allows for increased collaboration, and ultimately helps with
    delivering a product to market faster and with less bugs.
  • Quickly respond to business needs – Deployment processes are
    becoming more difficult to manage in a complex environment and IT is
    unable to adapt as quickly to changing business requirements. Moving to
    a virtual environment helps with procurement, setup and delivery,
    giving IT the efficiency needed for rapid deployment.
  • Reduce business continuity costs – Virtualization
    encapsulation (creating an entire system into a single file) and
    abstraction (removing away the underlying physical hardware) help to
    reduce the cost and complexity of business continuity by offering high
    availability and disaster recovery solutions where a virtual machine
    can easily be replicated and moved to any target server.
  • Solve security concerns – In an environment where systems
    are required to be isolated from each other through complex networking
    or firewalls, these systems can now reside on the same physical server
    and yet remain in their own sandbox environment, isolated from each
    other using simple virtualization configurations.

It’s a good article; recommended. In the first part, David lays out where we are as an industry, and the current drivers and speed bumps on the way to virtual infrastructure. This would be good intro for anyone. The second part is where David talks about the last few years in the marketplace. This is interesting as context to the current players — such as Microsoft’s original perspective on virtualization as being useful as a migration tool for moving to new versions of Windows, which is very different from our current view of virtualization as freeing us from the rigid coupling of compute resources to physical hardware.

I have a bit of a problem with the title; perhaps it’s a reaction to the current world situation, but I have a hard time seeing what we’re doing as a "War," even metaphorically. This is not a mature market, like with the RDBMS in the 90’s and Oracle, Sybase, and Informix all slugging it out. It’s certainly a Race, with VMware in the lead, building value on top of the hypervisor while others are still building their core technology. We actually do a lot of teaching in the field, as customers try to figure out where they should be using hardware virtualization vs. other technologies. "War" has an unfortunately focus on the vendors themselves and the competition between them; I’d rather be listening to customers and how they’re solving problems.