By Olivia Cahoon
Virtualization software creates a virtual version of computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and other computer network resources like intelligent operations management and automation. Today’s enterprise businesses seek virtualization software to reduce capital and operational expenses.
Here, we speak with leading virtualization solutions providers to discuss this software’s core uses and implementation. Recent trends like DevOps practices, new work loads, and public cloud affect the adoption and use of virtualization software.
Efficiency in Virtual Environments
Virtualization software varies by customer and industry. It allows organizations to optimize its resources by moving applications (apps) to public, private, and hybrid clouds.
Traditionally, enterprise customers used virtualization software to improve server utilization in data centers. “This customer base is still strong and continues to add to their data center virtualization footprint and move more apps into virtualized servers in their private clouds,” says John Priest, product management director, Oracle VM. Cloud providers are becoming a large segment of the virtualization customer base due to their use of virtualization software being larger than the typical enterprise customer.
According to Rob Young, manager, virtualization product and strategy, Red Hat, in the last three to five years virtualization has served customers who need to balance between legacy and cloud-ready workloads. “In short, virtualization has quickly evolved to enable users to leverage and integrate existing investments in order to enable future technology.”
Demand for virtualization stems from data center hardware consolidation. By increasing utilization of existing hardware with virtualization, customers reduce capital expenditures. “At the same time, the simplified and centralized management capabilities of server virtualization increase productivity and further drive down operational costs,” says Martin Yip, product line marketing manager, VMware.
Young agrees and believes that virtualized environments must enable users to maintain a minimal, optimized data center footprint while enabling the modernization of apps and workloads. Virtualization runs modern and traditional apps on the same platform. As app development patterns change, more apps are deployed as cloud native or via containers.
In customer data center settings, management becomes difficult as the industry grows and becomes more complex. “Virtualization can help reduce this complexity by offering operations management capabilities to help increase efficiencies in these virtual environments,” explains Yip. Virtualization provides intelligent operations management capabilities to monitor and manage health performance, optimize capacity, and rebalance workloads for app performance.
Not only does virtualization maintain efficiency, but it also protects against threats. Dan Cote, director, product marketing, Citrix, says that demands for virtualization focus more on how to securely deliver what people need for work including apps, data, and workflow, to be productive anywhere, any time. “Customers use app and desktop virtualization as part of a comprehensive secure, digital workspace environment to protect against security threats while making it easier for people to work.”
Young believes that today’s virtualization solutions must also continue to support legacy Mode 1 apps and enable organizations to streamline development, testing, and production processes in support of more modern Mode 2 distributed deployments.
Trends Affecting Adoption
As virtualization software evolves to be more user friendly and simple for building virtualization architectures, enterprise customers become increasingly comfortable using it. Priest says enterprise customers now move more apps into private or public clouds.
Businesses in multiple stages of cloud adoption have apps deployed in a range of clouds including Software as a Service apps purchased outside of IT. Cote says the challenge of managing all these resources is called Cloud Sprawl. “Customers are seeking ways to unify access to all of these apps and virtualization plays a role in that solution.”
Emerging apps present new opportunities for virtualization. The adoption of private and hybrid clouds leads app development patterns to be more cloud native and containerized. Organizations streamline development and deployment processes to meet cloud aspirations. “Most users with private, hybrid cloud plans need both virtualization and cloud-based infrastructures as apps, data, and workloads dictate which platform is best suited for the use case or the problem to be solved,” says Young.
According to Yip, more companies opt to place their workload in the cloud because it is perceived to offer greater agility. As the public cloud becomes more popular, so does virtualization software. “Why manage a data center when you can just swipe your credit card and have your server or virtual machine ready almost instantaneously,” he says.
One recent trend includes creating virtualized micro-clouds on premises for developers to create and test cloud-native apps. As desktop virtualization software grows in popularity, Priest says it allows developers to run a variety of operating systems like Linux, Windows, and Mac on a single workstation.
As infrastructure plays a bigger role in software, infrastructure-as-code becomes a requirement. Yip believes developers have more say over infrastructure as it becomes an integral part of software. Developers prefer using APIs to control infrastructure and sometimes use technology like containers.
In certain apps, the line of business has a big influence on IT decisions and app deploy. “For example, for big data, the data scientists are the ones who fund the project and decide how and where to place their Hadoop or Spark workloads,” explains Yip. For those unaware of virtualizing their big data workload, they place it on bare metal.
As Internet of Things adoption grows, virtualization software needs to connect to more devices and securely integrate and connect to the enterprise. “Security remains one of the strongest drivers for virtualization software, particularly app and desktop virtualization, and there is a growing demand to integrate with federated identity and access management security technologies to ensure a secure, unified workspace experience that makes it easy to work productively,” says Cote. A great experience motivates employees to use secure apps and tools to minimize the use of shadow IT.
Cote says it’s critical to integrate threat mitigation technologies like BitDefender into virtualization software to minimize zero-day exploits like WannaCry ransomware malware.
Challenges for Implementation
The adoption of virtualization software is challenged with the lack of virtualization skills and resources. However, getting started with virtualization is becoming simpler. “Customers can download and run hypervisors to get started with virtualization,” says Yip. Customers may also purchase several servers with virtualization software from major server OEMs to jumpstart virtualization initiatives.
Priest agrees and believes to adopt virtualization software, customers must remove a layer of complexity added when compared to the old model of deploying apps on physical servers. Removing ease-of-use challenges is accomplished by customer training and guiding user interfaces.
Customers may adopt hyper-converged infrastructure featuring a hypervisor and scale-out server-based storage software to increase business agility by enabling administrators to provision storage for apps at a fraction of the cost of traditional storage arrays, says Yip.
Organizations that keep data on premises may doubt the benefits of virtualization software. However, Cote says virtualization solutions are available to provide customers with a hyper-converged appliance that is plugged in to connect with virtualization software.
“Another key challenge is to provide a level of reliability and data security that matches the physical server-based solutions,” says Priest. This should be done while the end user deploys apps on a single server to gain the economies of scale offered by virtualization. He believes this challenge is greater in public cloud environments because resource and data isolation is required between the tenant running on the virtualized server.
One belief challenging the implementation of virtualization software is that virtualization affects app performance. “Nowadays, all business-critical apps including newer workloads such as big data and Hadoop are optimized to run just as well in virtual environments as they do on bare-metal servers,” explains Yip.
Young also believes app performance and development affects how virtualization software is implemented. As virtualized environments must enable users to maintain a minimal, optimized data center footprint, it must also enable app and workload modernization. He says these challenges are addressed by solutions designed to combine traditional IT optimization, integration of app data, streamlined policies and processes, and management of virtualized and cloud-based assets like infrastructure and data.
Impact on Enterprise Businesses
Today’s enterprise businesses adopt virtualization software. “It is the foundation of most company’s IT and digital transformation strategies,” says Yip. Virtualization helps customers lower capital and operational expenditures and achieve greater business agility for new apps and services. It also responds quickly to competitive threats and market opportunities.
According to Young, “in this age of digital transformation, virtualization provides a real way for enterprise businesses to cut costs and create a competitive advantage.” Using today’s modern virtualization options, companies leverage and integrate existing investments to enable future technology.
Priest adds that virtualization software allows enterprise businesses to reduce their capital and operational expenses. It allows IT departments to develop and deploy new services faster and migrate existing apps to new infrastructure while reducing data center sizes.
Cote says app and desktop virtualization is used by 99 percent of the Fortune 500 to help meet security and compliance requirements by ensuring sensitive and protected data is never stored on the end-point including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Virtualization software securely delivers apps and data for today’s enterprise businesses.
App and desktop virtualization also supports bring-your-own-device policies and provides greater flexibility by enabling businesses to securely deliver apps and data on any device “This is particularly important as Millennials become more dominant in the workforce,” says Cote.
Virtualization Software Offerings
A range of virtualization tools are on the market today, targeting enterprise efficiency.
Citrix’s XenApp and XenDesktop is an app and desktop virtualization and remote computing market. It delivers security, flexibility, performance, and user experience.
Citrix also offers XenServer, based on the Xen hypervisor, which is optimized to support advanced app and desktop virtualization features. It’s used by hyper-converged computing infrastructure vendors like HPE, Nutanix, and Atlantis.
Oracle offers on premises and cloud offerings with virtualization technologies. Two of its more popular solutions include Oracle VM VirtualBox and Oracle VM. VirtualBox is a cross-platform virtualization solution that allows development teams to create and run multiple virtual machines, on different operating systems, on the same computer, at the same time. It is designed for efficiency and optimized for performance. It is a server virtualization product engineered for Open Cloud infrastructure support workloads like Linux, Windows, and Oracle Solaris.
Red Hat Virtualization is a component of Red Hat Open Hybrid Cloud solution. It is intended for organizations and enterprises that need to optimize IT investments and understand the value and cost savings available with an open source development and delivery model, says Young. It enables customers to leverage and integrate existing investments to enable future technologies.
VMware offers several virtualization solutions including vSphere and VMware vSphere with Operations Management. It is a foundation for cloud, modern, and traditional apps. It enables customers to run any app with performance and high availability. VMware NSX enables software to create entire networks and embeds them in hypervisor layers.
Creating Virtual Versions
As businesses evolve, so do the core uses of virtualization software. Increases in data center complexity, security threats, and new apps demand efficient virtualization that offers server consolidation, enhanced app performance, as well as intelligent operations management.
August2017, Software Magazine