The evolutions of digital photography and virtualisation have a striking resemblance. Both have taken elements of the physical world – photographic prints on the one hand and IT hardware on the other – and created virtual versions while providing significant cost savings and flexibility. The disruptive effects on their respective industries have been enormous.
No longer do people have to wait for images or spend their discretionary income at the photo lab. The immediacy and ease of creating digital photos has spawned a revolutionary army of digital snappers across much of the developed world while quickly killing off much of the photographic film and printing industry.
Yet, to accommodate the flood of digital images and help people manage their photographic files, there are now highly-advanced software tools both on- and off-line – take iPhoto and flickr as examples. Could you imagine the frustration of organising all those digital photos without such tools? For similar reasons, the virtualisation game has changed. Like digital photos, IT administrators can create virtual servers (and other images like desktops) with ease. But no longer is the goal solely consolidation of physical IT infrastructure through virtualisation. Increasingly, points are being scored by vendors and their channel partners through management tools – VMware vCenter Server and Microsoft System Center being but two examples.
“As with most hyped technologies, IT organisations tend to jump on the bandwagon and they can see the upfront benefits of deploying it,” IDC security solutions and system management software senior analyst, Patrik Bihammar, said. “If you look at server virtualisation, that has definitely over the last 18 months become a mainstream technology – you won’t find many companies not doing any form of virtualisation.
“It is probably the early adopters who have virtualised a high percentage of their servers that are starting to run into management challenges now that they probably hadn’t thought of when they started going down the virtualisation path. The more infrastructure you have virtualised, the more you are going to see management challenges. That’s why many vendors have shifted the discussion over to it not being about the hypervisor – Microsoft is giving Hyper-V away for free, VMware has got the basic hypervisor available for free as well now.
“VMware has always tried to differentiate itself on value-added capabilities and always touted VMware VirtualCenter [now VMware vCenter Server] as one of its key strengths. If you look at Microsoft, they have been talking about the importance of managing physical and virtual environments. For vendors it is becoming a means of differentiating themselves but for end users it is becoming a critical part.”