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December 29, 2006
Vol.28 Issue 52|
Page(s) 10 in print issue
A Look Ahead For Servers & Systems
Analysts Peg Virtualization As The Top Trend
Analysts dont need a crystal ball to predict the emerging trends related to servers and systems for the upcoming year.
Topping their list is virtualization. According to Jonathan Eunice, founder and principal IT advisor of research group Illuminata, 2007 is the year that virtual servers go beyond early adopter or even todays early majority phase to become fully mainstream, fully Main Street technologies.
Driving the push for virtualization is cost reduction through server consolidation, dynamic provisioning, and disaster recovery. IT managers are being swamped with servers and looking for means to drain the swamp, says John Enck, vice president and research director at Gartner.
While virtualization may help stem the growing number of physical servers in the data center, IT managers continue to be faced with mounting power and cooling requirements. Kris Singh, director of strategic platform technology programs at AMD (www.amd.com), warns that power consumption is rapidly becoming a global issue. And Eunice points to exponential technology growth in the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, as well as other lesser regions.
IBM (www.ibm.com), AMD, HP (www.hp.com), Dell (www.dell.com), and Sun (www.sun.com) have teamed up to help form The Green Grid, a consortium of IT organizations seeking to share best practices to lower the overall consumption of power in data centers. The greening of the server and system industry has become a priority. Data centers will begin to see vendors actively touting more energy-smart products.
In 2007, quad-core x86 servers will offer a significant gain in performance as well as complexity. Enck believes data centers will, at first, be challenged to maximize the use of these more powerful servers due to this complexity.
Eunice looks for the new year to offer a great update cycle. As new multicore (both dual- and quad-core) x86 arrive in volume from both AMD and Intel (www.intel.com), there are going to be opportunities for more computing power at very reasonable prices. Combine this with virtualization, which all of the multicore processors have hardware support for, and its an appealing mix.
The multicore opportunity extends beyond x86, however. The latest versions of IBMs POWER, Intels Itanium, and Suns UltraSPARC T1 are all impressive multicore designs, too.
In the virtual realm, look for products based on the IBM Xen hypervisor to gain more maturity and more traction against market leader VMware (owned by EMC; www.emc.com), which currently holds 55% of the market. Microsoft (www.microsoft.com), SWsoft (www.swsoft.com), BEA Systems (www.bea.com), and Linux (www.linux.org) will also chip away at VMwares stronghold.
Microsoft is expected to finally make it out of the chute in the second half of the year with its long overdue Longhorn release of Windows Server. Despite having similar features to Vista, Enck says IT managers should spend time testing and planning for deployment of this new version.
Analysts predict several factors to catch IT managers off guard in the coming year. Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, observes virus attacks are changing and becoming increasingly criminal in nature. He suggests examining exposed systems. Servers may need to be upgraded, both software and hardware, to more effectively run both countermeasures and to make sure the critical platforms are as resistant as possible to these attacks, particularly if the servers are exposed.
With the rise in multicore processors and virtualization, Enck foresees issues relating to licensing forming on both fronts. With respect to dual- and quad-core processors, many application software licenses are tied to the processor core and not the processor socket. Thus simply moving an application from a two-way, single-core system to a two-way, dual-core system could increase the license cost of the application software running on the server.
On the virtualization side, most application software licenses are tied to the physical processor cores in the machine, not the virtual processor cores used in the virtual machine. Thus if I implement a virtual two-way operating system in a four-way server, I may be responsible for paying for a four-way server license, Enck says.
Enck advises IT managers to read the fine print in their license agreements and support agreements. We are seeing some application vendors refusing to support their products if they are running in a virtual machine, he says.
While data center managers are caught up in emerging virtualization and multicore processors, Eunice cautions not to ignore I/O and storage requirements. Much of the world focuses so much on the processing that it forgets that the full job is data processing and that you cant do that adequately unless you can move the data into and out of the central processing complex just as fast as you can chomp those bits, he says.
Looking past 2007, expect to see server and system vendors moving toward standardized frameworks in virtualization. Analysts envision that virtual machine interfaces will move from the current vendor-specific model to a standardized topology allowing customers to dynamically switch between multiple vendors, further streamlining data center consolidation, especially during mergers and acquisitions.
Enderle has noticed Microsofts more aggressive approach to security issues. For instance, for the latest patch release, none of the exposures they corrected applied to Vista or the next generation of Windows Vista, he says.
On the hardware side, Enderle sees major OEMs looking past the PC. I expect that a year from now we will have an increasing number of solutions as PC blades, workstation blades, and bladed servers become more viable.
Virtualization is the center of the crater, but moving out from there, Enck expects to see more products focused on orchestration of the data center. This includes the ability to move OS instances and application instances from server to server based on manual administration decisions or rudimentary policies. Orchestration will allow IT managers to run their data centers more efficiently.
Eunice agrees. The biggest shift is toward pervasive virtualization, he says. VMware is rapidly becoming a popular way to run x86 applications. With multiple competitors bringing Xen-based alternatives to market, competition is going to further popularize virtual servers as the preferred deployment model. Competition will reduce the costs for virtualized servers. Beyond x86, exciting things are happening in virtualization with Solaris 10, on POWER and AIX, on Itanium and HP-UX, and in IBM mainframes.
Eunice says, The way that applications and data centers are managed will change as much or more over the next year to three years than it has over the past 20. In short, virtualization is hopping!
by Sandra Kay Miller
Stats & Facts |
IDC estimates at least 75% of companies with 500 or more employees currently deploy virtual servers, and 45% of all new servers purchased this year will be virtualized.
The InfoPros survey of Fortune 500 and 1000 companies found that 85% of respondents cited virtualization technology as critical.
IDC found Linux is the fastest-growing platform for virtual machine deployments, accounting for 40% of the dollars spent on virtual machine software last year. Windows followed with 28%, and the remainder went to Unix and mainframe environments.
Gartner predicts in 2007 that power and cooling spending will exceed server spending.
Five Key Things To Prepare For |
More power and cooling requirements
More aggressive attacks with viruses, Trojans, worms, phishing, spam, and spyware.
Licensing challenges with multicore and virtualized systems
Growth of blade workstations
Microsoft Windows Vista
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