Virtualization Featured Article

The Data Center Takes a Major Shake-Up Thanks to Virtualization

July 07, 2016

Changing technology has a sort of ripple effect to it. When a new technology is introduced, it has a way of spreading its impact throughout the wider system. A technology that's invented might change several different technologies, and in some cases, it might change the same technology more than once. That's what's happened with virtualization and the data center, by some estimates, as virtualization in several forms changed the data center several times.

The first change goes back to 1998, as VM ware developed the x86 hypervisor, a tool that allowed data centers to run several virtual machines (VM) on one x86 host. That wasn't even so much a new tool—companies had run virtualized systems before—but this was a much simpler system, calling on standard off-the-shelf systems as opposed to “big iron” mainframe systems. Development of the x86 hypervisor, in turn, gave way to the x86 hypervisor manager. The combination of a hypervisor manager and shared storage allowed several virtualized servers to be run from one platform as a single object. That let VM systems run on any physical host, and made it possible for a Windows or Linux system to be considered datacenter-capable.

A data center that could operate from many common platforms, in turn, gave rise to disaster management options. Where before, a disaster might hobble work for days, even weeks, the new VM systems allowed businesses to better distribute workload to places that didn't just have a disaster. Seeing the value of such systems paved the way for the fourth change: cloud-based systems. Since it was now possible to redistribute workloads according to disasters, why not carry it further and allow remote access at any time?

Finally, out of all that, we got container systems. Being able to run applications in sandboxes essentially allowed for greater security, more ready remote access and the potential to run applications without having to run a complete OS accordingly.

Here, we get a look at the history of virtualization and what it's meant for the data center. So far it's meant some impressive things, and not just for the data center but for everyday users. If we hadn't started with virtualization in general, we wouldn't have been able to produce the cloud. We wouldn't have ready access to video conferencing systems and the like. How many other technologies depended on that one hypervisor coming out back in 1998? That's the nature of technology in a nutshell, and we're seeing it firsthand here.

Virtualization has had a big impact on the data center, but that's far from the only impact it's had. As more and more technologies emerge, the cumulative impact will likely go well beyond the initial target, and fundamentally change the landscape forever.

Edited by Alicia Young

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