Virtual Iron Software Inc. continued on its quest to push Linux and virtualization further into the heart of enterprise data centers today with an announcement that Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES9) would support its virtualization and data center management platform.
Novell will now ship a preconfigured kernel with SLES9 and has guaranteed that all existing independent software vendor (ISV) certifications will not be affected.
"The applications certification [component] is huge," said Novell director of data center applications Justin Steinman. "Customers want to know that their existing applications are not going to break when they deploy their technology [on a virtual sever]."
ISV certifications are key component
The certification assurances from Novell were of particular interest to Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc...
"It sounds as if Novell will be shipping a variant of their standard kernel with the changes needed to support Virtual Iron," Haff said. "The claim that Novell SuSE's supported ISV portfolio carries over to this para-virtualized kernel is a little bit surprising, but if it's true, it's significant."
Para-virtualization, Haff explained, means changing an operating system to support virtualization directly, which can improve performance relative to using a stock operating system.
Virtual Iron director of corporate marketing Tim Walsh also chimed in on the meaning of para-virtualization by comparing the practice to a fully virtualized system. "Para-virtualization is modification to the kernel, but by doing that [it] enables better performance so the performance degradation is less. A fully virtualized system rewrites the code as it goes, resulting in a significant performance drag," Walsh said.
The performance drag with a completely virtual system can oftentimes reach as much as 40% to 50% of total capacity, he said.
Virtualization still a 'megatrend'
Industry experts now believe virtualization will be built into every layer of IT within the next five years.
Two research firms, Framingham, Mass.-based IDC and Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., believe that within this time period the process of dividing up servers into virtual pools of resources will become less important. Virtualization management tools, then, will become the differentiating value for IT.
IDC has been especially optimistic about how it sees virtualization overtaking the market, with a recent report saying that the technology will saturate the market over the next one to two years.
According to a recent Forrester report, about 61% of IT shops planned to increase the scope of their virtual installations. Windows shops interested in virtualization also may multiply faster now that Microsoft has said customers running premium versions of Windows will no longer have to pay per physical server.
Research like this does not surprise Walsh, who said that the natural trend in IT toward consolidation is reason enough for virtualization to catch on quickly.
"Today when we go to customers, we hear it can take weeks or months to bring a new application online. First, they need to get hardware, connect to a SAN and network, and that can take many weeks and many groups [within their IT departments] to accomplish.
With a virtual console, Walsh said, that time can often be reduced to hours or minutes as an application is shifted to a virtual console while the old hardware is switched out.
"The utility computing, base data center model everyone is striving for today cannot be done without virtualization," Walsh said.