Last week I attended a virtualization seminar. I did not expect a lot from the event at first, but I was surprised by the qualities of the guest speakers. Both had strong backgrounds with VM environments, and they did a good job of explaining what it takes to migrate to VM.
One of the speakers made an interesting statement, saying that the hypervisor is now commoditized. The market for virtual solutions has gotten so big, it’s unavoidable. VMWare has ESX, Xen has their system, and Microsoft is coming out with Hyper-V. If everybody offers what is essentially the same thing, then how do these products stand out from one another?
Now your incentives for buying virtualization have changed. You don’t buy VMWare just because it offers virtualization; you buy VMWare because it has the best service, and the best hot migration features. You might buy Hyper-V because your familiar with Microsoft internal APIs and management tools. On top of virtualization, I’m not sure what else Xen has to offer, but there could be new features coming out from Citrix.
When I left the seminar, I started to re-evaluate hardware decisions that were made in the past. The nature of the beast has changed. Eight years ago, hardware decisions were taken for granted, because it too, was commoditized.
Everything runs on an x86, and everyone makes an x86, so the low price usually won out. Anything that the vendor offers on top of the low price might have clinched the deal. Better support, better service, free shipping? Whatever it took to sell a server and get it out the door. Hundreds of IT departments packed data centers full of tight 1ru servers. Virtualization has now made those servers worthless.
When a single server failed, it was no big deal. You probably had another one just like it running the same application. If that same server is now running multiple virtual hosts, then the service impact is higher. Two machines may now be fighting for access to the same mirrored local disks. What are the chances that they’re impacting each other?
If your server can only handle 2 running virtual hosts, then you cut hardware costs by 50%; but in order to win, your hardware savings still need to be higher than the support and licensing costs of your enterprise VM solution. A 2 to 1 hardware savings ratio isn’t good. it’s expected. In order to maximize your investment, you should aim for a 4 to 1 hardware savings ratio, maybe higher
Migrating to a VM environment does not mean building a VM solution into your servers; it means building your servers around a VM solution. If the hypervisor really is treated like a commodity, then the same can no longer be said about the hardware.