Peter Kerney is Intel's senior solution architect in Australia. A leading enterprise technical specialist, he is experienced in high-performance computing, virtualisation, broadcast and simulation technologies. He recently spoke about why virtualisation is so hot and where the technology is headed.
Why, in your opinion, is virtualisation so hot right now?
Peter Kerney (PK): Virtualisation is one of the tools that a business can use to solve a number of the IT problems they face. Depending on the usage model that they are applying virtualisation to, it may be used for server consolidation, disaster recovery, load balancing [better usage of resources] and many other tasks. This can lead to savings in management, down time, energy usage and so on. This is why most organisations have virtualisation in their plans. In itself, virtualisation will not deliver these outcomes, rather it is a tool to help an enterprise realise these benefits.
Where do you think I/O and virtualisation are headed?
PK: I/O virtualisation can mean different things to different people. Some consider I/O virtualisation to mean that the storage in an organisation is virtualised and the applications and user do not need to know the mapping to physical resources. At Intel, we have technology that we refer to as Virtualisation Technology (VT) for Device IO. This is some hardware features that Intel is building into the chipset to allow a virtual guest OS to realise near native performance for I/O to physical storage devices. This has typically been an area where performance has been impacted in a virtualised environment.
How does virtualisation tie into a security solution?
PK: Intel is exploring a number of security usage models for virtualisation. This is one area that we see as being an excellent reason to introduce virtualisation on the desktop. By using virtualisation, an enterprise may deploy secure-hardened applications to the desktop that are more tamper resistant. The enterprise IT organisation can rely on the integrity of the application environment. This is just one usage of virtualisation that provides security benefits.
Do you believe the expansion of multiple core technology in CPUs will impact the future of virtualisation? If so, how?
PK: As Intel introduces products with more and more cores, certainly virtualisation is one way of utilising this extra processing power by consolidating a number of workloads onto the platforms. This is not the only way to take advantage of multiple cores. ISVs are seeing the benefits of parallelising their applications in order to realise these higher performance levels in a non-virtualised environment as well.
What is the most common reason for deploying virtualisation today? Do you think this will change in the future?
PK: As already mentioned, virtualisation can be used in a number of different usage models. There are figures available from third-party research organisations that break down the most common usages. From memory, server consolidation is the most common one right now. I think that some of the virtualisation vendors such as VMware have some excellent data on this.
There appear to be two common trends at the moment: the first is where the enterprise takes a few big expensive machines and virtualises everything on them; the second is for the enterprise to get many more small and cheap machines and to make a small cluster out of them so that it doesn't matter if one or two go down.
Which trend do you think will dominate? Which way of doing things do you think is better?
PK: No one approach will apply to all enterprise workloads. There is still a place for large-scale systems as well as clusters of smaller nodes. It is very much application specific as to which platform infrastructure is more appropriate for a given workload.
What are customers expecting to see from virtualisation?
PK: Virtualisation is one of the tools that a customer may use to realise their IT goals. Different customers have different outcomes that they are expecting from the use of server virtualisation. As mentioned, some of the uses for virtualisation are reductions in power and thermals and an increase in server utilisation through server consolidation. Others might be looking for the flexibility that virtualisation gives to meet the agility requirements for their IT organisation. Also there is the disaster recovery usage model that may be the driving factor for some. There is no one specific value of virtualisation that is the driver for every enterprise.
What do you think the next development in virtualisation will be? How far can this technology be taken?
PK: Intel is working on a number of new technologies that make its products the platform of choice for virtualised environments. The only ones that can answer this question are the customers and how virtualisation can solve their IT business problems.
What is Intel currently doing in this space?
PK: Intel works very closely with all members of the virtualisation ecosystem. We not only have teams working on hardware features to assist in virtualised environments, we also have other groups that are working with the major ISVs such as VMware, Microsoft and the open source communities. We also work with enterprise customers to understand what they need from our products to help them solve their business problems.