The Future of Virtualization is Emerging… & it’s Cloudy
As VMware and Microsoft both make major pushes into the cloud arena, it becomes increasingly clear that the future of virtualization extends this technology in some significant ways. Already, both VMware and Microsoft provide technologies that enable virtual environments to span data centers, enabling powerful and granular workload execution options while also providing ample opportunity for new and innovative disaster recovery techniques.
Now, though, the cloud is emerging as another platform on which to run workloads. No longer do organizations have to remain tethered to their physical data centers when the practically unlimited resources of the cloud await. Both companies are working hard to ensure organizations have a seamless way to share workloads between private data centers and the public cloud.
Last week, Microsoft lifted the veil on Hyper-V 2012 R2, which boasts a number of new features. Most importantly for the future, though, the new Hyper-V is the same foundation on which virtual machines run in Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-based service. Moreover, with System Center 2012 R2, organizations will have the ability to live migrate running workloads to and from Windows Azure.
The potential benefits are clear. With traditional virtualization, organizations needed to build their environments to be able to support peak workloads rather than sizing for just routine operational needs. Building for peak can be an expensive proposition as organizations deploy resources that will only be used on occasion. With a seamless way to migrate workloads to a cloud environment, an organization could conceivably shift a workload to the cloud for a peak period and then shift it back to the private data center once the peak period has ended. In other words, organizations can build internal data centers that meet operational needs and use the cloud to provide scale when it becomes necessary. There’s no need to build out without a good business reason to do so.
Further, this blurring of the lines between the cloud and the private data center enables organizations to take a new kind of strategic approach to where workloads should operate. If there is a service that is consumed by all employees from all branch offices or home offices, perhaps the cloud is a better target for that workload so that the organization doesn’t need to procure massive bandwidth to meet that application’s needs. By adding the cloud as a workload operational tier, organizations can gain much flexibility.
Be Mindful of Challenges
Perhaps the biggest challenge that cloud providers – including Microsoft – have on their hands is one of cost. Cloud services often take a nickel and dime approach to chargeback, leading to confusion on exactly how much moving a service into the cloud may cost. In order to ensure that companies can comfortably leverage these emerging opportunities for coupling virtualization and cloud, cloud providers would be well to simplify their cost structures, particularly for organizations with relatively simple needs that may not be familiar with such “pay as you go” methods.
Further, both customers and providers will need to ensure that their environments remain in lockstep with one another in order to avoid service disruptions. Nothing would be worse than being unable to move a workload back into a private data center because Microsoft made a change to the virtual machine format that renders it incompatible with a customer’s local data center. To this end, customers may need to place a renewed focus on staying as current as possible and not give in to the temptation to skip an upgrade cycle.
Opportunities abound for organizations that choose to leverage the emerging technologies coming from both VMware and Microsoft. However, harnessing the power of these technologies will require some creative thinking and a commitment to stay current with the latest and greatest as providers continue to provide customers with new and innovative ways to run business-critical workloads.