Monday, January 16, 2006

Which industry segment most likely to use Virtualization?

Last week, I visited a large data center that houses hardware for various customers. I came across a very interesting cage while walking along a row of cages. This cage contains over thirty racks full of servers, networking and storage hardware.

The best, I could observe, it has storage from NetApp, EMC, HDS, HP, Dell, and Adaptec; networking from Cisco, Extreme, F5, Netgear, and Brocade; server equipment from Dell, Sun, HP, SuperMicro and other whitebox vendors. They are running Solaris, HP-UX and Linux as guessed from rack labels.

The two things stood out in my mind:
  • Absence of IBM equipment in the mix.

  • The hodgepodge of vendors whose equipment are installed in this cage.

It is rare for me to see this much heterogeneity in an environment. I typically recommend no more than two or three vendors for competing products form operation management perspective. I also suggest not standardizing on one vendor platform to avoid losing the future leverage. Actually, I learnt this over 10 years ago working for a very large company - two vendor strategy … funny how the lessons learnt in early stages of career are so difficult to forget.

Is this organization a prime target for virtualization? I am pretty sure in near future; either this company will be a good candidate for Virtualization or retiring few redundant vendors to simplify their environment.

We all hear vendor marketing about how virtualization can simplify storage management. But the truth is unless you inherit a messed up environment, the virtualization may introduce more operational complexity instead of simplifying management. And even in this scenario, the cost-benefit analysis must be performed to evaluate the benefit of virtualization versus scaling back on number of vendors in the environment.

Looking at multiplicity of vendors in this environment got me thinking about which industry segments are most likely to use virtualization. The organization, who owns equipment in this cage, seems to have an ad-hoc hardware acquisition strategy. Considering they are in a managed data center, I will guess that it is a web based business or a managed application service provider.
  1. Organization that has gone through several M&A in last few years, especially merger of equals.

  2. Geographically dispersed organization with de-centralized management.

  3. Organization whose management seem to be always in structural flux.

  4. Technology industry segment.

  5. Organization that grow too quickly too fast, startups like Six Apart. Actually Om Malik of Business 2.0 had an interesting post last month on his blog about the infrastructure needs of rapidly growing Web 2.0 startups. See Even in Web 2.0 Scale & Size Matter.

What are some other qualifying criteria for the organizations that may be potential users of virtualization?

I am looking forward to heading back to Toronto later this week.


  1. Don't understand why all those big guys in storage industry keep on talking about virtulization, seems this is the next big thing. Is this a marketing strategy or ??

  2. Sorry, I have no insight into what big guys think!

    In my opinion, end users don't get any compelling value from current storage virtualization offerings like what they get from server virtualization.

    Storage vendors are using virtualization either for penetrating their competitors' accounts or developing long-term customer dependency.

  3. And to add to that that was the same reason why EMC picked up Vmware Corp. Storage is still seen as a "putting a shotgun in my wallet and look the other way"

    No wonder guys at IBM,et al started with Storage/APERI project where possibly UDC, Utility Data Computing, might take off where you'd have bunch of SATA disks which cost peanuts running your Mission Critical Systems and indeed Virtualization has something to do with storage as it's moving rapidly into production where SAN/NAS (vendor would be HP, EMC etc) etc plays a crucial role when it comes to data management.

    And if within 3-5 years there is such standard and where IBM (no wonder they didn't invite EMC,HP in time) would offer a UDSN* (Utility Data Storage and Networking) and it would be easy to replace a Storage hotch-potch (like what Anil saw) with a single of dual vendor and Virtualization.

    Sometimes deploying a breakthrough technology like virtualization (as indeed pinted out by Anil) which (immediately and) drastically reduces your TCO is a good excuse to clear up other mess which you into as well. ;-)

    *I made it up :-)