Server and Storage Virtualization – Life beyond Consolidation

February 4, 2009 – 11:20 pm

Storage I/O trends

Ask someone what virtualization of IT servers or storage means and the typical response is to consolidate under-utilized physical servers or storage systems to reduce power, cooling, floor space and physical hardware costs.  However I commonly hear from IT professionals that not all of their servers or storage can be consolidated for various reasons. Some reasons why IT resources such as servers or storage cannot be consolidated include among others While consolidation is one the faces or capabilities, and certainly a common usage today, there are many other quality of service (QoS), performance, politics, financial ownership, security, software compatibility and vendor support to name a few.

In the big picture, the percentage of all servers (or storage) that can be  consolidated ranges from as low as 15% to as high as 35%, or perhaps higher (or lower) depending on whose numbers you subscribe to. Likewise, the percentage of virtualized servers that have been virtualized for consolidation purposes is generally considered to be in the high 77-94% percent range based on different estimates.

What this means, is that while the benefits of leveraging consolidation via server virtualization are well-known, not all servers can be consolidated for different reasons and the same holds true for storage and other IT resources. However, this does not mean that the majority of servers, storage or other IT resources cannot be virtualized to enable transparent management for maintenance, technology updates, load-balancing, supporting business continuance (BC) or disaster recovery (DR) along with other non consolidation centric functions. In other words, with consolidation, we are just seeing the tip of the virtualization iceberg (or mountain).

There are several faces or functionality of virtualization technologies beyond consolidation including abstraction, emulation and providing transparency for enabling enhanced management and flexibility of IT resources. For example, virtual tape libraries leverage abstraction and emulation to enable new disk based technologies that combine replication, compression and de-duplication to cut  data footprint and enable BC/DR to co-exist with existing backup and data protection software, processes and procedures. Another example is using server or storage virtualization to provide an abstraction layer to support BC/DR enabling transparent movement of applications for consolidated, as well as non-consolidated servers. Technology upgrades are another time consuming and disruptive process where virtualization can be used to more seamlessly move applications and data while reducing or eliminating application downtime. In other words, the focus today is clearly on consolidation to drive up utilization and reduce costs; however there are even greater opportunities on a go forward basis for using different aspects of virtualization

Note that this does not mean however that not all servers or storage cannot be virtualized, something that is a common misperception given the perception and industry messaging that incorrectly pigeon holes virtualization to mean consolidation, and consolidation to mean virtualization. To the contrary, the reality is that there is life beyond consolidation, there are even more scenarios and far greater market opportunity for non-consolidation virtualization deployments over time, then what has already been seen for first wave of consolidation centric virtualization scenarios.

There is a very large market opportunity for virtualization of servers, storage and I/O networking in scenarios beyond consolidation for enabling transparent data and application movement, supporting BC/DR and other common time-consuming and disruptive IT infrastructure resource management tasks.

Ok, nuff said.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
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