During the three years that I have been writing about virtualization, we have seen a number of changes in the way the industry views this technology.
Originally positioned as a core technology, virtualization was touted as the next big thing capable of putting the "gee whiz" back into storage. Almost nobody bought the stuff of course, and many of the early movers in storage virtualization have long since fallen by the wayside.
Two early high-profile vendors that didn't fail in the marketplace, DataCore and FalconStor, learned that while no one wanted to buy virtualization, IT managers were more than willing to put money on the table once someone articulated to them the benefits that virtualization offered in terms of improved IT process. These two companies, and to a lesser degree two much larger vendors (HP and IBM), moved virtualization out of the R&D dream world and out onto the enterprise IT floor.
They did this by de-emphasizing the term "virtualization" and by stressing the concept of pooled storage. The idea of a storage "pool" was a metaphor that was easily understood. Once IT managers understood that all their then disconnected and underutilized storage could be joined together and allocated as needs required, the virtualization companies had leapt across a chasm and brought their products into the mainstream. After all, pooled storage could be nearly infinite in terms of capacity - and because it is managed capacity we are talking about here, the pooled storage on a storage-area network could be manipulated with relative efficiency to address problems that every IT manager was coping with every day.
So virtualization changed from being a snazzy-if-almost-incomprehensible storage technology to being an "enabler of IT processes." And somewhere along the way IT managers who wouldn't have been caught dead setting aside any part of their budgets for untried products and new technologies began to find themselves investing in a new set of solutions that now could be seen as offering a reasonable and efficient fix to a set of IT problems they knew they had.
Virtualization of course doesn't just add value to storage management. The kind of flexibility that a virtualized environment provides adds value to network and systems management as well, and in all likelihood will be applied to several other areas that now qualify as major pain points for IT managers.
Expect virtualization to play a major role not only in grid environments, but also in those areas of IT technology that grids and storage pools will enable. HP's Adaptive Enterprise, IBM's On Demand technology, and Sun's N1 will all rely on automated management of virtualized IT assets as key building blocks of their new technology.
So let's hear it for rampant data growth and decades of under-managed managed storage. After all, if it weren't for things like that, you likely would never have had a reason to begin understanding virtualization so early in its evolution, before it took over the rest of the data center. Time to take your system admins out and explain the whole thing to them.