For this final part looking to the future, I don’t want to talk about VMware versus Microsoft’s Virtual Server. Instead, I want to talk about how virtual servers will continue to become more and more relevant in the server-based computing world.
First of all, if you haven’t done so already, you should definitely read my article about how utility computing will shape Citrix and Terminal Server.
I’ll talk a lot about EMC in this article, since they’re the new owners of VMware. Personally, I never thought too much about EMC. I viewed them as a niche storage maker and nothing else. When they bought VMware I could definitely see how the two companies’ visions were able to line up, but I wasn’t sure how they would package VMware and EMC storage into a single customer solution.
That all changed when I learned about a company called Egenera. Egenera is a server hardware manufacturer that builds blade and 1U modules that work together to form single virtual servers. Each physical module contains processors and memory, nothing else.
For example, you could buy four Egenera blades, each with 4 processors and 8GB of RAM. These four blades would work together to form a virtual server. The modules plug into a standard 19" rack, and redundant control units house the networking, KVM, and SAN connections.
If you start to run out of processing power, no problem. Just plug in another Egenera blade to add more capacity. If a particular blade fails, no problem. You’d lose a bit of processing power but the “server” would still run on what’s available.
Egenera calls this a “PAN” (as in "Processing Area Network"). Each individual Egenera blade plugs into the frame with a custom connector (that has a whole lot of pins), so the blades are connected by a lot more than Ethernet.
To me, this is the future of virtual server / utility computing technology.
Image what you could do if you combined EMC storage, VMware virtual server software, and Egenera virtual server hardware into a single solution from a single company. You could build a datacenter that was 100% virtual. You would never have to buy “extra” capacity, because each virtual server would use exactly what it needs. If your data center needed more processing capacity or storage, you could add additional resources that would be used wherever they were needed.
Since EMC bought VMware, they should also buy Egenera.
EMC could be successful in this space because the other four major server vendors (HP, IBM, Dell, and Sun) all have a vested interest in selling “traditional” servers. While market pressure will force them to “talk the talk,” they’ll want to hold off on “walking the walk” as long as possible. In today’s world, the fact that someone is forced to buy a 2GHz server just to bring up some little web application is great for them.
In the future, a utility computing world based on EMC/VMware/Egenera would allow you to bring little servers online without an explicit separate hardware purchase, and it would allow the new “server” brought online to be more resilient and have more growth potential that the old model.
This model is also much more realistic for scaling (by creating lots of little virtual servers) than Microsoft’s efforts to build software that can run many different applications on the same logical server.
After reading this article and my other article about utility computing and Citrix, I think it's pretty clear to see how these technologies could work together to create a redundant Citrix- and Terminal Server-based system that could power all the applications for an enterprise.