Virtualisation technologies: hits and misses of 2011

Amid a slew of virtualisation products and management suites that emerged in 2011, some products such as Spring platform impressed users, while others such as VMware MVP didn’t.

Two thousand and eleven was a big year for new virtualisation technologies, and some were better than others.

This year, VMware launched vSphere 5, rearticulated its cloud strategy, and revamped its mobile virtualisation platform, among other things. Microsoft meanwhile promised us Windows 8 and Hyper-V 3.0. As 2011 comes to a close, we asked virtualisation experts to look back, and give us their lists of technologies that impressed them– and those that didn’t.

Virtualisation hits

All in all, it was a good year for virtualisation technology, with many long-time products finally getting their due.

A recurring favourite among virtualisation experts is Spring, VMware’s Java application development framework. VMware acquired SpringSource back in 2009 and it is now fully integrated into the VMware portfolio. 

“Spring framework - pretty much unknown in 2010 to IT Infrastructure folks - is now firmly on the radar,” said Daniel Eason, infrastructure architect at a UK-based multinational company. “It works tightly between the infrastructure stack and application/middleware stacks.”  

“It allows developers to create cloud-ready applications for the masses,” said systems analyst, Stuart McHugh. “I’m impressed with the add-ons too, especially the social networking features which are an essential for today’s markets.”

McHugh pointed out that large companies such as LinkedIn, MTV, NASA and Samsung have already adopted this framework.

More reasons why Spring is a hit: According to experts, the value of the desktop or mobile operation system is gradually getting diluted, leaving Java as the natural application development platform. “Do people care if they have Apple’s IOS or Google’s Android? I don’t think they really do,” said McHugh. “All that matters are the applications.”

He added that having applications that run on multiple mobile platforms is key for businesses expanding to the cloud. “…And tools such as Spring are great to get the job done, so it’s definitely a hit in 2011.”

Hyper-V and Windows 8
Microsoft says it plans to include Hyper-V in Windows 8 to “bring virtualization to a core set of scenarios for professionals using Windows,” the vendor said. According to a report by TechTarget’s, a Hyper-V client hypervisor in Windows 8 could remove the licensing roadblocks that form the core of user objections to Microsoft.

“Although not fully released until next year, the first glimpses of Hyper-V on Windows 8 have shown that the virtualisation industry will not be a one horse race,” said Eason.

VSphere 5
Although uptake of vSphere 5 is slow among users, thanks in part to the early vRAM kerfuffle, experts think vSphere 5 is one of the technology hits of 2011 because of its storage features.

Virtualisation expert Mike Laverick, in his article noted that vSphere 5 takes “storage management to a new level” with Storage DRS and storage intelligence in VMware HA, and with an improved file system.

“VSphere 5 has bought new levels of depth to VMware's key product and it’s great to see further tighter integration formed with the different layers of the infrastructure stack,” said Barry Coombs, a vExpert who works for a VMware partner. An example of this is the new vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA APIs) allowing storage awareness between the hypervisor and the SAN vendors. “The opportunities of how this could be expanded in the future are endless and extremely exciting,” Coombs added.

VMware Workstation / Fusion
With the release of the latest version of these two virtualisation tools, VMware offered new features including the ability to run nested 64bit virtual machines, improved performance, drag and drop from users’ local desktop to the data centre, and the ability to manage both local Workstation VMs and vSphere data centre VMs. “VMware has once again offered new features when most people guessed that it might have reached the end of its innovation,” said vExpert David Davis calling these tools a hit.

Cloud, revisited
In addition to virtualisation platforms and tools, industry insiders think that a better understanding of cloud computing was another highlight of 2011.

Although the term “cloud” has been in use for the last few years, its definition, particularly in SMB / SME space, has been hazy. “But in 2011, vendors worked to help define cloud and how IT departments can use it,” Coombs said. “Vendors such as Embotics are developing services to help businesses realise the benefits of private cloud and help them use IT as a Service.”

Virtualisation misses

While products such as Spring and vSphere 5 scored high among users in 2011, some others didn’t fare so well.

VMsafe API
One virtualisation disappointment has been VMsafe, the set of APIs VMware launched in 2009 to allow third-party security vendors to integrate security into hypervisor and secure virtual machines at the host level.

“Over three years since its launch, it still hasn't even shown signs of being mainstream,” said Eason. “Was this really just a vision of [former VMware CTO] Mendel Rosenblum that just couldn't be embraced within a risk-averse security industry?”

VMware End User Computing
“Whilst the launch of VMware View 5 with much improved PCoIP bandwidth utilisation and the final integration of Persona Management [software] was a great enhancement to the product, it lacked some of the “wow” factor compared to the massive futures previewed at VMworld this year,” said Coombs.

The View Persona Management feature allows IT pros to manage end user profiles. View 5’s PCoIP improvements help reduce overall bandwidth usage on both LAN and WAN connections.

Despite these improvements, it failed to impress users in 2011. “However VMware has certainly set itself up for a huge hit in the end user computing space in 2012 if it delivers half of the technologies previewed during 2011,” Coombs said.

VCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS)
Another miss, according to Davis, was vCenter Operations Manager. “While VMware announced new features of vCOPS this year, VMware doesn't make the tool price-competitive, and only offers the most competitive feature in the enterprise version,” he said. “VMware can do better.”

VMware Mobile Virtualisation Platform
One of the highlights of VMworld 2011 was VMware Mobile Virtualisation Platform or MVP technology. Some experts, however, are still concerned about the maturity of VMware mobile virtualisation and its relevance in the overall mobile marketplace.

Despite the dominance of mobile computing in IT, VMware MVP is “yet another VMware product that has been bubbling for two years and hasn’t yet become a reality in the enterprise segment,” said Eason.

McHugh remembers VMware unveiling MVP to users in 2009. “I thought I can stop carrying two mobile phones around,” he said. “The demo I witnessed ran Windows CE and Android. But after this, things went quiet for some time.”

At this year’s VMworld Europe, MVP made a re-appearance. This time the demo in Copenhagen showed how once when the sales professional hit the road, his personal Android device could be used as his work device and he could access the company files he needed. “With such wonderful scenarios people might think this could take off instantly, but with a very competitive mobile phone market, the tool hasn’t really reached the enterprise yet,” explained McHugh. “It’s a fail for 2011.” 

Let us know what technologies you think were hits and misses in 2011. Write to us at [email protected].

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