The Impact of Virtualization's Rise in 2013

Virtualization matured in 2012; in 2013, virtualization will finally replace physical as the primary environment within the data center.

By Doug Hazelman

In 2012 we saw several new trends emerge, some of which were led by major vendors while others were trends that finally took hold after years of vendors telling everyone what they needed.

One of the most important trends that emerged was "Software defined … everything." Not surprisingly, VMware was the major promoter of this movement, as it was omnipresent at their annual VMworld conference. VMware CTO Steve Herrod even penned a blog post detailing how VMware was defining the "Software Defined Datacenter" at VMworld. Not to be left out, Cisco also began talking a lot about software-defined networking, no doubt in response to VMware's acquisition of SDN start-up Nicira. All this talk of software defined networking most likely also helped SDN startup Big Switch acquire $25 million in a round of financing.

Any look back at 2012 wouldn't be complete without talking about cloud, and this year, the theme was private cloud, driven largely by Microsoft. Microsoft started talking about private cloud a while ago but really kicked things into high gear with the release of System Center 2012, which included a hypervisor-agnostic private cloud solution. It helped people begin to realize that virtualization by itself does not equal cloud. VMware also recognizes this and has its own private cloud solutions built on their products.

When it came to the smaller businesses, 2012 saw SMB customers finally embrace true disaster recovery through replication, thanks in large part to virtualization, which makes replicating workloads to an offsite location much easier and cheaper than it was in a physical environment. Of course not every business has multiple locations for offsite replica, but SMBs are getting creative. I've talked to more than a couple of school districts and churches that have teamed up with each other to do cross-site replication to each other's data centers, and, of course, service providers are emerging to fill the gap, more than willing to host SMBs' replica VM's.

As we look forward to 2013, many analysts are predicting that, in the majority of companies, more than 50% of all workloads will be virtualized and some companies will be approaching 100% virtualization. Software defined "everything" and private cloud and helping companies push virtualization ever farther and, with this kind of penetration into the data center, virtualization has gone completely mainstream. It's now the preferred method for deploying new workloads.

Once companies reach the 50 to 100 percent mark of virtualized workloads, management and data protection solutions designed for virtualization will take precedence over solutions designed for physical infrastructures. The tipping point for most companies comes once they've reached at least 50 percent virtualization, when they realize their old tools just don't work very effectively for virtualization and private cloud. A number of vendors and startups have sprung up over the past few years, and, judging by the heightened M&A activity and consolidation in that market, these companies were right to bet on virtualization.

With the consumerization of IT leading software-as-a-service, more companies will embrace public infrastructure-as-a-service clouds. As companies take a long hard look at their balance sheets, they'll understand that it makes more sense to let someone else run the infrastructure. The more a company is virtualized, the easier it is for them to move workloads to a public IaaS cloud and 2013 should see more widespread adoption.

In short, in 2012, virtualization continued to mature. In 2013, virtualization will finally replace physical as the primary environment within the data center. The effects will cascade through all segments of IT, causing at least as much disruption (and quite probably more disruption) than did the transition from mainframe to client-server.

In IT, we live in interesting times.

Doug Hazelman is vice president, product strategy, and chief evangelist at Veeam Software. He consults with customers, partners, and industry analysts on key considerations for implementing virtual server infrastructures. He works with Veeam's R&D team to enhance and develop new Veeam products to address market needs, and advises customers on best practices for managing virtual environments. Doug shares his expertise via the Veeam blog and other social media outlets and has spoken about virtualization management at VMworld, the Nordic Virtualization Conference, Interop, and other events including regional VMUG meetings. He is a VMware vExpert for 2011 and has also appeared on VMworld.com's "Ask the Experts." You can contact the author at doug.hazelman@veeam.com.
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