Saturday July 11, 2020

Virtualisation infrastructure: Building from solid foundations

As virtualisation is now a constant in all businesses, the main question is how best to manage it

6th October, 2019
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Oliver Mallon, cloud solutions architect, Viatel

Considering how commonplace virtualisation is, it’s easy to overlook the developments in the space and the impact they have had.

In the last few months in particular there has been news of a number of new partnerships and acquisitions, including VMware announcing a deal with Oracle, and HP acquiring endpoint security company Bromium.

But lest anyone expects this activity to be a sign of bigger things to come, it’s a case of incremental evolution rather than revolution.

“My sense is that we’re not at a specific inflexion point in relation to virtualisation technology,” said Tadhg Cashman, services director for Logicalis Ireland.

“Rather, it’s that the big vendors continue to add incrementally to their capabilities. Even if I look at some of the products that Logicalis Ireland would deal with, there has been a significant evolution on its uptake, particularly around network and storage virtualisation.”

There is now such a great mixture of services out there that you can choose the combinations that suit your business the most.

For Stephen O’Herlihy, chief technology officer of PFH Technology Group, virtualisation will always be a part of it. But the real question is what kind of hybrid mix to decide upon.

“Sometimes firms call it the dilemma [where they] can’t put all of their workloads up in the public cloud. Therefore they have to invest in their infrastructure because it’s ageing,” he said.

“The dilemma is why would you bother using public cloud if you have to make an investment on-premise? That’s the lead-on to hybrid, where the answer is both. It’s not on-premise versus off-premise; it’s on-premise with public cloud.”

That does explain some of the reasons why virtualisation services are investing more and more in other areas. For Oliver Mallon, cloud solutions architect at Viatel, it’s vendors wanting to provide a comprehensive set of solutions for its customers.

“If you think of virtualisation itself as becoming more of a commodity, it’s a mature technology,” he said.

“There are always new features and variants coming along, but different capabilities are being added on like infrastructure, management, security and data protection. Those combined technology offerings are becoming more strategic, and customers are expecting that. When they buy virtualised solutions, they’re expecting that a lot of these capabilities are included or the option to include them.”

Complexity alongside choice

Tying in with the topic is the growing popularity of multicloud set-ups, where having a single place to manage them is a major priority for companies.

“When cloud first came about, you had the likes of AWS [Amazon Web Services] and Azure, which was a lot of people moving stuff into the cloud,” said John O’Donoghue, enterprise specialist at Dell Technologies Ireland.

“Then they were beginning to realise that there’s a service from AWS they want and then there’s this service from a different cloud provider that they want. What we’re trying to enable is that single pane of management across all the cloud providers. You can use a service in Azure, you can use a service in AWS or Google, and that’s what the goal is.”

It’s something Mallon referred to as well. It’s not just offering the choice in the first place, but also giving the option of consolidating providers.

“In some cases, companies will want to pick and choose,” he said. “They want the flexibility. But in other cases, you’ll have organisations that will want to consolidate their providers.”

For the service providers, however, this presents significant challenges behind the scenes. The complexity involved in running these services is not going to change any time soon and expectations are only going to rise.

“IT is becoming highly complex,” said O’Donoghue. “What customers want is to be able to pick and choose the services while simplifying the management, as IT is in every part of an organisation.”

The right offering

Managing all of this requires expertise, something to which fewer companies have access. The shortage of talent means more are turning to managed providers to help them out.

“To do that, you really need to have the skills and knowledge to be able to understand how to architect it, implement it, migrate to it and manage it on an ongoing basis,” said Cashman.

“That’s a huge challenge for a lot of our customers.”

There are many different considerations that need to be factored in. Mallon said some of the more important ones would be performance and latency, security and data protection.

Another thing businesses can easily miss is the hidden charges that can come with these services, especially since they’re overwhelmed with choice.

“We have stories where companies embark on journeys and then they get a big shock down the line when supplementary or hidden charges are factored in,” he said.

For the most part, modern vendors are able to wrap their services around these multiple providers so that it’s easier to manage everything. It’s a fact of life now, and providers like PFH have adjusted their offerings to accommodate that. “No matter what, every customer you go into will always have a multi-vendor strategy,” said O’Herlihy. “There’s no customer in the globe that’s just using one solution, but your typical enterprise space, they’re going to have everything from VMware to Microsoft to Commvault to Dell to HP, you name it.”

While virtualisation will remain a core part of many business processes, what is not going to slow down any time soon is the rate of change. New players will emerge and upend what we already know about virtualisation.

“A great quote I heard was the big fish eats the little fish; now it’s the fast fish passes out the slow fish,” said O’Donoghue.

“Instead of big companies being always able to eat up the smaller companies, some of the smaller companies are overtaking them quickly.”

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