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The next entry in our series of 2013 technology and IT trend predictions focuses on our perspective for the virtualization industry heading into next year. Here’s our take on what’s to come for virtualization.
The multi-hypervisor datacenter becomes a reality
For much of the past decade, if you wanted enterprise-grade virtualization, there was one choice of vendor: VMware. Fast forward to today, and nearly 50% of x86 workloads are now virtualized. As organizations look to expand that footprint, they have begun to explore alternative virtualization platforms. Results from the independent, industry-standard benchmark for virtualization – called SPECvirt – conducted by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) show that performance and scalability advantages no longer reside with a single company. The basic functionality that most organizations consistently use can be found in most offerings on the market today.
We expect the potential for a multi-hypervisor datacenter to become a reality in 2013. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is one attractive alternative that is built on open technologies and delivered by Red Hat, which has a history of providing lower cost solutions and promoting innovation. Just as some companies have found that single-vendor strategies for operating systems or hardware do not make sense for them in an agile world, we predict that the era of a single vendor for virtualization is over.
Linux and open source increasingly drive next wave of cloud and virtualization innovation and adoption
The first wave of virtualization in most organizations was driven by Windows® server consolidation. Windows servers historically were dedicated to one mission-critical application—companies would not run Exchange™ on the same server as their SQL Server database, for example. As such, servers were sized for peak workloads and many were underutilized. The resulting server sprawl made management difficult, increased administrative and facility costs, and left wasted resources unavailable to the organization without risking critical workloads. Consolidating these Windows servers made a lot of sense.
Linux workloads, on the other hand, have been more amenable to being mixed on the same server and Linux servers have typically run at higher utilization than their Windows equivalents. Analyst research indicates that where Windows workloads are currently 60% virtualized, Linux workloads trail behind at 30% on average, and in some organizations they are still mostly bare metal, likely because they haven’t needed virtualization to get higher resource utilization.
In 2013, we believe Linux workloads will begin representing a greater percentage of the workloads being virtualized. What do we see driving this? Organizations are now comfortable with virtualization and are beginning to institute "virtualization first" initiatives. Also, as hardware is refreshed, even two-socket 1U servers have more CPU and memory than a highly utilized bare metal Linux machine can consume. And, with the continued drive to the cloud, Linux workloads will likely be increasingly deployed both inside the virtualized datacenter as well as outside in the public cloud.
Future-proofing long-lifecycle enterprise applications
Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers enterprises and organizations with enterprise-level requirements up to a ten-year lifecycle for its operating-system releases, which can be a great benefit for providing continuity of support for both existing and new application workloads. But as most of us know, the maximum lifespan of server hardware is generally five years, and many organizations are on refresh cycles of 3–5 years, so maintaining that software lifecycle can be a challenge.
Virtualization allows physical hardware to be replaced without changing the operating system container, and this can have many benefits to organizations looking to standardize their hardware lifecycles, lower physical server support costs, and take advantage of power-saving technologies built into the latest hardware.
In 2013, we expect more Red Hat Enterprise Linux users to use Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to help future-proof their enterprise applications. For example, Red Hat has shown that users can take Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 running on a three-year-old Linux server, virtualize it using its P2V (physical-to-virtual) tools, and migrate to a brand-new x86 server running Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization without making any platform changes to the operating system. The virtual machine gains the performance and power utilization advantages of the new hardware, with the assurance from Red Hat that both the virtualization and Linux platforms can continue to function well together.
Coexistence of virtualization, bare metal, containerization
When enterprise applications were monolithic, stateful and resource-heavy, it made sense to have a virtualization strategy focused around the needs of large, stateful and resource-heavy virtual machines. But as cloud deployment models become more frequent, applications are being architected to be lightweight, stateless auto-configuring containers for CPU and memory, with the bulk of storage and network management outsourced to dedicated network and storage virtualization solutions.
While some vendors have tried to convince the market that converting their entire architecture to virtual machines was the only pathway to the cloud, as we see it, bare metal workloads will continue to exist, although perhaps less prevalent than they are today, and need to be part of the cloud strategy of the organization. And while virtual machines are a good first step in increasing resource utilization and manageability, technologies that incorporate virtualization capability into the operating system otherwise known as "containerization" also allow virtual machines or bare-metal servers to be subdivided as well to provide application protection and more granular division of resources.
In 2013, we also expect Platform as a Service ("PaaS") platforms, such as Red Hat OpenShift, to become more prevalent—taking advantage of bare-metal, virtual-machine, and containerized operating systems like Red Hat Enterprise Linux—to allow an organization to make best use of its resources to deliver enterprise applications.
The challenge to Red Hat and others will be to enable the technologies that facilitate the foregoing trends to be created and managed more easily.