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Virtual Is Its Own Reward


Virtualization: An IT job-security plan based on resource allocation obfuscation.

Okay, pay close attention. We're going to do something that's never been done in a magazine before. You've never seen anything like this. It may appear that I am writing this column, but what you are experiencing is really a 3D hologram of me. We're proud here at the Best News Team in Software Development Publishing to be the first magazine to have an author appear in holographic form. I feel just like Princess Leia. I'd like to explain the complicated technology behind our Columnist Virtualization Platform, but I need to go live to the column now.

In December 2006, we asked, "Is Virtualization Real?" Today it's not only real, it's gone rogue. At Microsoft's Virtual Pressroom you can download virtual videos on the virtues of the virtual. Virtualization, Microsoft says, changes virtually everything. Microsoft released a bare-metal hypervisor, Hyper-V 1.0, which, if we believe the ads, comes in a can. They are jumping into the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure field pioneered by Citrix, Ericom, and Quest/Provision Networks, and also plan to have App-V available in the first half of 2010, supporting 64-bit virtualized applications.

Virtual memory: RAM at the speed of disk storage.

Virtualization.info, a site we cited in that 2006 article, reports that it has become "incredibly complex" to keep up with the tech specs of all the virtualization products out there.

Storage virtualization: Users don't need to know where their data is.

Sun is on board the virtualization bandwagon with its ZFS file system. ZFS filesystems are built on top of virtual storage pools, in turn made up of multiple virtual devices. Recently, the acronym ZFS ceased to stand for Zettabyte File System; it's now an orphan acronym, like IBM. Even the acronyms are being abstracted.

RAID: These disk drives are unreliable, let's buy more of them.

One of the benefits of all this abstracting out of capabilities is energy efficiency, and virtualization.info published a video of an experimental VMware feature called "Distributed Power Management," in which physical servers are automatically powered on and off as demand rises and falls in the course of a day. Since energy efficiency is increasingly a concern for companies and individuals and looks like it will be a national priority of the Obama administration (aka the Barackracy), that's cool. Literally cool.

Cloud computing: Managers don't need to know where the company assets are.

"But thinking about virtualization from the perspective of cost reduction alone is missing the point," says rPath VP Jake Sorofman. "A large part of the value of virtualization is about agility and business responsiveness. This is where enterprise application virtualization plays a key role, helping to blend speed and control to close the deployment gap that stands in the way of true business agility." rPath is a pioneer in technology for virtualizing software applications and for managing the complete lifecycle of virtual appliances and application images in virtualized environments and in the "cloud," or the Internet viewed as an amorphous clump of services and capability droplets. That may not be the official definition.

Grid computing/cluster computing: Users don't need to know what their computers are doing when they're not looking.

A cloud hung over the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in November, but it wasn't getting people down. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior called the cloud "the next evolution in computing." Right now, though, it's all private and standalone clouds, but he's looked at clouds from both sides now and he wants to see these scattered clouds merge into hybrid thunderheads and eventually into one great federated intra-cloud. Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, also spoke at the Summit, and said he sees cloud computing as a big driver of the information economy in the 21st century.

Virtual desktop: The user of this computer doesn't have to be the user of this computer.

Virtualization has certainly gone viral and infected many of our computer and Internet experiences. I am typing this on an Intel-based Mac, which means that I could be running in Windows, virtually or really, I'm not sure which. I'm "really" using OS X, but OS X is "really" UNIX, right? And the document I'm typing is, although we take electronic documents for granted now, "really" a virtual piece of paper. Looks like paper. That's an early virtualization. (Speaking of Apple and paper, what kind of a name is Mark Papermaster? You know, the former IBM exec on whom IBM has served papers, charging that his hiring by Apple violates a paper he signed for IBM?) My point is, we've been virtual for a long time.

Okay, well it's been fun being a hologram columnist for you, but I have to get real now. I'm due at a friend's wedding and he actually expects me to show up in person.

Michael Swaine

Editor-at-Large

mike@swaine.com


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