Wyatt Kash | Virtualization realities

Editor's Desk'commentary

THE FORCES DRIVING the move to virtualization may have their roots in the relentless ' and, in government, traditional ' need to do more with less. But it's a move that is emerging as a force unto itself.

As often happens with information technology changes, the notion of virtualization varies widely, depending on who's talking and what they're trying to sell you. In part, that's because virtualization is no longer only a matter of creating virtual environments on a desktop or server or in storage arrays. Increasingly, the challenge for IT managers is how to best create and manage effective virtual ecosystems in and across physical networks.

To a large extent, the possible continues to exceed the practical. As GCN Senior Technology Editor Rutrell Yasin reports in this issue, the rise of virtualization is creating a growing backwash of concerns about software, security and systems management.

Problems such as virtual-machine sprawl isn't one that many IT managers had to worry about until recently.

New generations of middleware are helping to make virtualization more manageable, but simplicity is not one of its selling points. Many applications still don't translate smoothly into virtualized environments. And let's face it, application vendors face some tough choices on how to structure, price and support software licenses for an environment that resembles more of a house of mirrors than a traditional network.

Yet, that hasn't stopped enterprises from adopting virtualization. According to a recent Forrester report, half of the enterprise IT shops it surveyed reported using x86 server virtualization today; two-thirds expect to do so by 2009.

Of course, the fly in the ointment is how to manage security processes that are rooted in monitoring physical systems. The problems aren't insurmountable; but techniques such as full-disk encryption don't have a simple parallel solution in a virtual environment.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the lack of IT professionals working for government who are experienced in setting up and managing virtual environments.

But that should not be a deterrent to government technology leaders.

As IT work increasingly shifts toward a future characterized as cloud computing, the need for virtual- network managers will grow dramatically.

The difference this year is that although virtualization remains a work in progress, it is a reality that has arrived ' and is here to stay.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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