Virtualization: A journey towards automation

by Ashutosh Desai    May 28, 2010

The concept of virtualization and its accompanying solutions have been in existence for a few years now. Organizations seem to have gone past the awareness phase and are considering implementation roadmaps. There are still some concerns as the technology continues to mature. Talking to CXOtoday, Karthik Ramarao, principal consultant, Datacraft Asia, said even though virtualization may not be the answer to all business needs, it is a de facto infrastructural requirement.

Businesses are becoming more aware of virtualization but are they moving towards the phase of actual implementations?
Virtualization provides plenty of benefits to the clients, they realize it but they are still uncertain whether they can move their production environment into a virtualized environment. However, there has been a lot of interest for virtualization in the last two years. A lot of interest has been generated thanks to the economic downturn, to the pressures of CFOs to cut down on cost. This interest is more towards how businesses can move some of their lesser important applications to a virtual environment. Apart from providing economic benefits of reducing operational or capital expenses, virtualization also allows businesses to be more ready for disaster environments wherein they are able to move and migrate much faster.

Apart from security, what are some of the concerns that enterprises have about virtualization?

While virtualization does bring benefits, it also raises some concerns. This is because hardware now becomes a shared commodity. A larger SME or enterprise typically buys a machine based on a particular application or a department’s requirement. In a virtualization environment this changes because it is a shared environment from the hardware perspective. As a consequence, the challenge is from a perspective of client’s being open to having a shared environment across their own department. The other concern is that in terms of technology, it could be fairly new or na ve — whether it is appropriate for moving their production environments into a virtualized one, is something businesses are testing and continue to do so.

Are Indian companies adopting virtualization solutions as much as the ‘more mature’ markets?
In terms of adoption, India is still lagging behind the more IT-mature countries. In terms of sheer ratio of adoption, it is perhaps a lot lesser in India. But this is quickly changing because of more awareness about what virtualization can do and there is also a lot of expertise which is becoming available for enabling a virtualized environment.

What is the ideal way to approach implementation of virtualization in a data center?
Virtualization can be done in a silo, where a particular server or storage is simply virtualized and use it as it is. But when virtualization is ingrained into the fabric of the data center, becoming part and parcel of the entire architecture of the data center. For that you need to look at virtualization from an end-to-end perspective — from the application to infrastructural components. That is where a lot of expertise is not there today but quickly gaining a foothold, where a client can look at a data center holistically and see how it can be virtualized so that he can get the complete benefits of virtualization — as opposed to the silo approach.

Would you agree that migration needs to be planned well and implemented in a phased manner over a period of time?

Absolutely. There are two different types of data centers. ‘Green’ data centers are much easier to adapt virtualization into and there are existing data centers which already have a variety of machines. To move such data centers into a virtualization environment needs to be done in a phased manner. There is also a complexity of multiple operating systems in this environment. The virtualization maturity in each of these is very different and so are their solutions and management. For such a data center, there has to be a phased approach. This is a journey that a data center has to perform. Depending on the kind and size of a data center, it can take any time upwards of a year to transition.

However, one must also understand that virtualization is not the panacea for all issues. Clients are trying to solve issues like power and cooling, agility, performance, or management in a fairly mature data center. Virtualization is not a solution to all of them.

How do you see virtualization technology and solutions evolve over the next few years?

To me, virtualization is a de facto infrastructural requirement. I do not think people can avoid it; they will use it in different ways. It allows businesses to utilize their infrastructure better, bring economic benefits, make an organization more agile. As a consequence, virtualization will become a de facto standard so much so that there might be integration at a much deeper level. Today it is available as a hypervisor, which is sitting over a processor or an operating system. But in the future, you may have virtualization features which are ingrained into the hardware itself. Virtualization is going to be part and parcel of all infrastructural deployments. It’s more the question about how virtualization manifests itself for usage by clients, and that will be in the form of cloud-based services and offerings.