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The Next Virtualization Revolution

Virtual technologies will allow organizations to re-architect and evolve the entire enterprise network

When it comes to the future impact of virtualization upon data centers and networks, we may already have experienced "the shot heard ‘round the world." In fact, the stage is set for the next wave of the "virtualization revolution."

Most IT organizations already recognize the importance of virtual servers. Cost savings through better utilization of the underlying server hardware is well documented as are the environmental savings on power, cooling and rack space. A 2012 survey conducted by Gartner Research found that virtualization is among the top 10 highest IT technology priorities for CIOs. ("Gartner Executive Programs' Worldwide Survey of More Than 2,300 CIOs Shows Flat IT Budgets in 2012, but IT Organizations Must Deliver on Multiple Priorities," 1/18/2012)

Many IT organizations are now looking at extending those benefits to the rest of the enterprise. Virtual technologies will allow organizations to re-architect and evolve the entire enterprise network on a massive scale, dwarfing the first battle of the virtualization revolution.

Virtualization Breaks Down Barriers
This massive change comes as the result of the confluence of two powerful trends - software defined networking (SDN) and virtual infrastructure. Together the two will lead a virtualization revolution that will have significant positive effects on cost savings, ease of deployment and flexibility for network infrastructure, storage systems, security, disaster recovery, user computers and mission-critical applications.

SDN enables IT unprecedented flexibility by being able to carve up and control their existing bandwidth amongst applications To achieve this, IT must isolate Virtual Machines (VMs) and their hosts from the underlying network, separating the intelligence in today's switches and routers from their proprietary hardware. SDN standards, such as the Open Flow protocol, help on this front by enabling multiple logical networks to share a common physical network.

Combined with virtual appliances, virtual machines and virtual storage, SDN enables the resource allocation of devices and applications to be managed and changed by third-party software using open protocols, such as Open Flow. Within a completely virtual data center and network infrastructure, this capability opens up the opportunity to unify the interdependencies between diverse data center and network technologies, improving performance, workflow processes and provisioning of diverse systems and applications.

There is significant business value to be gained in time-to-market savings when deploying and administering applications, and the advantages of automatically managing network performance end-to-end. A virtual network in this context can utilize virtual devices installed on servers, switches and routers. For example, a network that employs virtual WAN optimization and that is configured inside a hypervisor can be deployed and migrated quickly based on real-time demands that are matched with virtual resources. Organizations can accomplish this cost-effectively and at will using "pay-as-you-go" (or "pay-as-you-go-grow") licensing methods to dynamically scale WAN optimization resources up or down.

The ability to automate the interdependencies associated with failover and migration for data centers, disaster recovery sites and enterprise-wide networks is becoming a reality. One of the many benefits IT staff will gain are the new efficiencies enabled between separate server, application, security and network teams, as they become able to assign services, security and operational policies across each virtual machine.

Intelligent Software Empowers Dumb Hardware
As technology appliance vendors move their solutions from expensive hardware-dependent devices to intelligent, software-based solutions, low-cost commoditized hardware reaps the benefits. Those who lead the market in this area stand to gain huge benefits and increase their competitive position, while those who don't will lose their competitive edge.

The consolidation of multiple servers and their various roles within virtualized environments running on a single physical, commodity-based machine makes highly effective use of hardware. IT personnel can quickly scale infrastructure, easily adding virtual resources to address increased workloads, and providing additional resources during scheduled and unexpected maintenance.

The increasing adoption of virtualization is leading us into a new technology era that will change the face of data center and network infrastructure forever. The proliferation of hypervisors on a variety of devices such as server blades, routers, switches, and other devices is making it easy to deploy virtualized solutions and achieve its many advantages.

The future scope of virtualization is much more than reducing CAPEX and OPEX, or even future-proofing IT investments. It represents an across-the-board change in how we think, develop, deploy, manage, change and migrate data center and network infrastructures, and culminates in the blending of business and technology goals and objectives.

The data center and networks that connect users to them are the heart of business and commerce today and virtualization has taken its place at the very core. As this technology wave rolls on, these benefits will continue to revolutionize and re-energize business.

More Stories By David Greenfield

Dave Greenfield has spent more than 20 years as an award-winning journalist and independent technology consultant. Today, he serves as a product marketing manager at Silver Peak and is the author of “A Greener Field” blog on NetworkWorld.com. He recently served as editor and blogger at Network Computing magazine tracking WAN optimization and virtualization. Dave’s work has also been published in InformationWeek, IT Architect, Network Magazine, PC Magazine, Red Herring, TechTarget, and other publications.

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