Kerney dishes the dirt on Intel's virtualization plans

Intel is embracing the trend to virtualize across a broad range of business facets, from security to multiple core CPU's. The company currently has teams working on hardware features to assist with virtualized environments, and is embracing an open approach to the technology by partnering with major ISV's such as VMWare and Microsoft, as well as open source communities.

Peter Kerney is the Senior Solution Architect at Intel Australia. A leading Enterprise Technical Specialist, he is experienced in high performance computing, virtualization, broadcast and simulation technologies, and will be a panelist at Computerworld's Interoperability for Virtualization: Reducing the Complexity event to be held in Sydney, 11 March. Computerworld recently spoke to Kerney prior to the event to get his thoughts on why Virtualization is so hot right now, and where virtualization is headed as a technology.

Why, in your opinion, is virtualization so hot right now?

Virtualization is one of the tools that a business can use to solve a number of the IT problems that they face. Depending on the usage model that they are applying virtualization to, it may be used for server consolidation, disaster recovery, load balancing (better usage of resources) and many other tasks. This can lead to savings in management, down time, energy usage etc. This is why many/most organizations have virtualization in their plans. In itself, virtualization will not deliver these outcomes, rather it is a tool to help an enterprise to realize these benefits.

Where do you think I/O and virtualization are headed? Why?

I/O virtualization can mean different things to different people. Some consider I/O virtualization to mean that the storage in an organization is virtualized and the applications and user do not need to know the mapping to physical resources. For Intel, we have technology that we refer to as Virtualization Technology VT for Device IO. This is some hardware features that Intel is building into the chipset to allow virtual guest OS'es to realize near native performance for I/O to physical storage devices. This has typically been an area where performance has been impacted in a virtualized environment.

Where do you think the industry is headed in terms of security and virtualization?

Intel is exploring a number of security usage models for virtualization. This is one area that Intel sees as being an excellent reason to introduce virtualization on the desktop. By using virtualization, an enterprise may deploy secure-hardened applications to the desktop that are more tamper resistant and therefore the enterprise IT organization can rely on the integrity of the application environment. This is just one usage of virtualization that provides security benefits.

In CPU development currently, it appears to be becoming more and more expensive to increase CPU speeds, but the number of cores is increasing. Do you believe that the expansion of multiple core technology in CPU's will impact the future of virtualization? If so, how?

As Intel introduces products with more and more cores, certainly virtualization is one way of utilizing this extra processing power by consolidating a number of workloads onto the platforms. This is not the only way to take advantage of multiple cores. ISV's are seeing the benefits of parallelizing their applications in order to realize these higher performance levels in a non-virtualized environment as well.

In your experience, what are people using virtualization for now? What is the most common reason and why? Do you think this will be changing in the future?

As already mentioned, virtualization can be used in a number of different usage models. There are figures available from third party research organizations that break down the most common usages. From memory, I think that "server consolidation" is the most common one right now. I think that some of the virtualizations vendors such as VMWare have some excellent data on this.

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There appear to be two common trends at the moment: the first is where the enterprise takes a few big expensive machines and virtualizes everything on them, and the second is for the enterprise to get many more small cheap machines and to make a small cluster out of them so that it doesn't matter if one or two go down. Is this what you're seeing? Which trend do you think will dominate? Which way of doing things do you think is better?

The first method you describe is "server consolidation". As mentioned previously this is just one usage model. The other method is a virtual pool of compute resources or a cluster. There is not one approach that will apply to all enterprise workloads. There is still a place for large scale systems as well as clusters of smaller nodes. It is very much "application specific" as to which platform infrastructure is more appropriate for a given workload.

What are customers wanting to see from virtualization?

Virtualization is one of the tools that a customer may use to realize their IT goals. Different customers have different outcomes that they are expecting from the use of server virtualization. As mentioned, some of the uses for virtualization are reductions in power and thermals and an increase in server utilization through server consolidation. Others might be looking for the flexibility that virtualization gives to meet the agility requirements for their IT organization. Also there is the disaster recovery usage model that may be the driving factor for some. There is no "one" specific value of virtualization that is the driver for every enterprise.

What do you think the next new development in Virtualization will be? How far do you think this technology can be taken?

Intel is working on a number of new technologies that make it's products the platform of choice for virtualized environments. The only ones that can answer this question are the customers and how virtualization can solve their IT business problems.

What is Intel currently doing in this space and where do you think the organization will be headed in the future?

Intel works very closely with all members of the virtualization ecosystem. We not only have teams working on hardware features to assist in virtualized environments, we also have other groups that are working with the major ISV's such as VMWare, Microsoft and the Open Source communities. We also work with the enterprise customers to understand what they need from our products to help them solve their business problems.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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