Virtualisation: hot cake

Updated: Mar 27 2006, 05:30am hrs
Over the past year, server virtualisation has become a key technology. A host of start-ups are, however, putting a novel spin on the technology. India being a tech-savvy country when it comes to technology adoption is getting attracted.

In India, the government and the PSU sectors have shown keen adoption towards controller-based storage virtualisation technology. Companies that have large, diverse and complex environments and want to simplify the management of these environments are potential candidates for implementing virtualisation. Some of the verticals where early interest has been seen are in the BFSI, telecom, ITeS and retail industries. But its certainly not confined to these verticals.

Virtualisation technology encompasses all IT segments. Right from servers, to network and storage to desktop. Though desktop virtualisation is yet to be a reality, others are surely catching up.

A virtualisation trend at the server end is on the decline. This is because the explosive data growth makes it difficult to perform operations like point-in-time copy, replication using the compute power of the servers.

There was a time when server virtualisation was used

extensively to perform operations like point-in-time copy, replication using the computing power of the servers, but thats not the case any more. Customers have realised the benefit of using the computing power of servers for computation and cache power of storage to perform operations on databases.

Atul Sood, regional director, Hitachi Data Systems India, however, feels that there may be some customers who will continue to use server virtualisation due to high investments that were made initially but HDS believes that these would not be in the interest of customers over a longer period.

On the other hand, highlighting the progress of this trend towards servers space, Vaibhav Phadnis, director windows server system, Microsoft India added, Customers are on a treadmill of complexity and the cost that limits the value IT delivers to business. There are various number of benefits while implementing virtualisation solutions over servers. But some of the benefits of virtualisation are multiple operating systems that can run simultaneously on the same processor while on virtualised server. Each independent virtual machine functions as a self-contained computer, which is a positive sign in terms of safety data. Apart from this in a virtualised server workloads are decoupled from hardware.

While internationally, storage virtualisation has taken off, in India it is still at concept stage. While companies are showing increasing interest owing to the benefits of lower costs associated with the various storage resources within the mixed and shared hardware and media pool, we are yet to witness large scale implementation of SAN virtualisation solution. This is because SAN is still at its nascent stage and vendors are still figuring out a universal standard.

Highlighting the market size of virtualisation technology, Tata Rao, vice-president, enterprise SE, Cisco SystemsIndia and Saarc said, About 85 to 90 % of enterprises will be using some form of virtualised storage to take full advantage of the SAN technology. The network storage business is expected to grow at 50%. This optimism is shared by IDC too which predicts that the overall storage systems market would have grown to $250 million by 2005 at a CAGR of 76 %. It says that IP SAN is expected to garner more than 25% of the global storage market by 2007.

Mr Rao further added, In addition to securing data and applications on networked computers, end-users also are looking at desktop virtualisation to secure networks from unmanaged devices, such as PCs used by contractors or employees logging on to the corporate network from home.

In virtualised storage environments, applications can see and interact with logical components, which are independent from but able to interact with their physical counterparts including SANs, disk arrays, tape components, and other storage media. Virtualisation also promises to enhance overall platform independence, along with system flexibility and utilisation. Maximising system flexibility and utilisation are critical to ensuring that a storage investment is delivering the benefits and dividends its owners planned on, says Phadnis.

Enterprise-class infrastructure typically includes multi-vendor server environments, diverse connectivity technologies, and multi-vendor tiered storage environments. Organisations require the ability to allocate any storage to any application based on the needs of the business, and to do so non-disruptively.

Networked storage virtualisation enables organisations to deliver the right information at adequate performance levels and functionality to the business at the lowest total cost. Virtualisation also promises to enhance overall platform independence, along with system flexibility and utilisation.

Maximising system flexibility and utilisation are critical to ensuring that a storage investment is delivering the benefits. Virtualisation is not simply a fancy way of viewing and interacting with data, but can tangibly improve the performance of enterprise storage and the value of business information.

Ajaz Munsiff, director, business development, virtualisation products, EMC Corporation, feels that despite the hype, virtualisation does not provide a cure for the common cold, but it can solve some and mitigate other key issues facing storage customers.

He believes that in essence, virtualisation enables the creation of logical (virtual) representations of physical IT resources such as memory, networks, servers, and storage which function as if they were actual resources. In virtualised storage environments, applications can see and interact with these logical components, which are independent from but able to interact with their physical counterparts including SANs, disk arrays, tape components, and other storage media.

Most commercial solutions are based on one of three architectural models: appliance-enabled, array-enabled, or network-enabled.

Ajaz further added, In practice, appliance-enabled solutions feature a mid-range storage controller/server placed in the data path to perform a variety of virtualisation functions. However, the controllers position in the data path tends to add latency, though some vendors enhance controller performance as a means of addressing this issue.

In arrangement with Express Computer