Virtualization Technology an Emerging Technology by Michael G Perry

Virtualization represents a huge monetary savings opportunity for businesses. Virtualization revolutionizes software licensing as we currently know it and application developers are scrambling to develop new licensing models.

By enabling a single computing source to run as multiple logical resources it can allow a single server application access to innumerable users without violating traditional licensing models that are figured per user or per processor. Vendors using virtualization software enables other applications to run on logical partitions at the application layer. This makes the software transparent regarding its physical location, thus rendering traditional per processor software licensing meaningless. Along with multi-core processors on the hardware end, virtualization is forcing new licensing methods on all software application developers even as this article is written.

Consolidating applications on fewer servers enables businesses to run using less hardware. Oftentimes servers are under-utilized with a significant amount of processing power idling and unused. Running fewer servers saves money not only in up-front hardware costs but also by reducing energy bills and reducing the number of IT staff required for server management. Plus, processing power is used efficiently and more up to the capabilities each server can handle.

Keep in mind that the software industry will catch up to the advantage virtualization currently presents to businesses and will come up with pricing schemes that are more beneficial to their profit lines. Where per-chip licensing was a simple concept meaning one chip per piece of hardware hence one license required, virtualization, with its transparent logical partitions, permanently obscures how to define this.

Vendors are trying and are coming up with various methods to tackle the problem virtualization presents to them. Most of these new pricing schemes are still based on hardware instances but count on a per-socket basis, instead of per-core, which saves businesses a lot of money when they take advantage of virtualization. One idea floating around for a new licensing model involves pricing based on memory used or number of cores.

New releases from perpetual competitors like Microsoft and Sun are now based on treating each virtualized server as a physical server and come prepackaged with a number of virtual machines that can be released under the licensing agreement.

There are basically five ways to approach virtualization and each method has its major player in the market:

The first method is not adopting virtualization at all. This is the traditional computer architecture where applications are operating under a single operating system (OS) instance on a single piece of physical hardware. As anyone can see, there is no hardware savings realized under this traditional model of the computing architecture. Multiple machines will still be required to tackle processes that a single, virtualized machine could handle. However, most applications still use this model for their licensing schemes while virtualization revolutionizes the whole concept.

Hypervisor virtualization represents the first method used to achieve transformation of a single processing environment into multiple virtual ones. First developed by IBM for its mainframe systems in the 1960s, this method utilizes the "hypervisor" created between the hardware and operating system layer that essentially virtualizes the operating system independently of the hardware it is running on. Today major vendors using this method of virtualization are VMware, XenSource (open source) - recently acquired by Citrix, and Microsoft's Hyper-V which will work with open-source platforms.

The next type of virtualization uses a rival technology to the hypervisor highly utilized by Microsoft. This method uses containers to virtualize applications from the operating system, instead of the operating system itself being compartmentalized itself. This method eliminates the need for separate instances of the OS. This type of virtualization cannot support Windows, and never will, and its major players are Sun and IBM.

Another virtualization method already utilized by Microsoft is built into its own Virtual Server 2007 software. This is a free tool that can run other operating systems on top of Windows Server 2008, rather than creating a separate instance of the OS. Presently, the only operating systems that Virtual Server will run are Windows operating systems but plans are in the works for Virtual Server to support the SUSE flavor of Linux.

Finally, a virtualization method introduced by BEA Systems is the only method that abandons per-socket licensing altogether. LiquidVM is based on the Java platform and eliminates the OS altogether by running applications directly within LiquidVM. LiquidVM licensing is based on instances of the virtualization software.

As noted previously, there are many software vendors that have introduced products based upon the open source platform. Open source licensing is often a great alternative to traditional licensing as software using this model is freely distributed within an organization.

However, a company wishing to implement virtualization using its own XenSource initiative must realize a lot of development talent will be required and open source licensing inherently offers limited support. The open source virtualization licensing model works best for large companies with an internal IT application development staff that can work with the open source code and customize it to the company's needs.

Smaller businesses just don't have extensive application development personnel on hand so they might want to look at other virtualization licensing strategies that better suit their company. With hardware already in the market that inherently compliments virtualization such as multi-core processors from AMD and Intel desktop users are also able to take advantage of the virtualized processing environment.

Desktop users can install multiple instances of Windows on the same PC, utilizing the different processing cores, without violating Microsoft's licensing agreement. Full VMware virtualization allows IT security personnel to create an operating system environment independent of the "live" OS for testing purposes, etc. This allows the IT staff to fully test new software installations, for example, on virtual desktops without bringing down the "live" OS for these testing purposes.

New software can be tested fully and end-user issues can be anticipated and fixed before the new software is ever introduced to the end-users. Virtualization presents an excellent money-saving opportunity that businesses large and small can take advantage of. No matter the size of the business, you can benefit from less hardware to purchase and support, and savings on skyrocketing energy bills.

Also, less hardware means less space required to do the same job that was done before virtualization was introduced. New hardware is built to support virtualization so there's really no reason not to take advantage of it. As you consider implementing virtualization technology, know that virtualization has been around for decades.

The primary reasons why it's grown in popularity are because the software is much more compatible with multiple operating systems, bandwidth speeds are considerably faster and companies can now reduce overall capital expenditures to cut back on hardware, IT support and consumption of electricity.

Michael G. Perry has more than 20 years' professional experience in management, IT consulting and writing technical documentation related to business process, policies and procedures Find out more about how he can help you with Virtualization and other IT related technologies. [ can't find site].

Disclaimer/Release of Liability Statement: Regarding knowledge shared in this article, Michael G. Perry will not be held responsible for any consequential damages resulting from the application of content or recommendations.

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