While many organizations have only begun down the cloud computing and virtualization roads in the past few years, some in the industry can't wait to take these technologies to the next level.
“The easy steps in consolidation and virtualization have been taken,” said Martin McCarthy, president of 451 Group, during introductory remarks for his company's annual client conference in Boston this week. Now new hybrid cloud environments are emerging where IT is asking what workloads they will own and which they will put on third parties, he says.
This was a theme I heard repeatedly at the event on Tuesday from users, analysts and vendors.
David Allen, CTO of backup and recovery company i365, told me that “The lines are blurring between what's on premise and what's in the cloud.”
Allen says his outfit, a Seagate company, increasingly sees its role as helping customers use the cloud for storage, though not necessarily moving everything to it. What really has him pumped is a future in which various vendors' clouds interact (like say i365's and Microsoft's Azure) and in which advanced analytics and other services can be offered to exploit data stored in the cloud. Currently, cloud integration between providers is mainly at the lowest common denominator level, Allen says.
On the virtualization front, early adopters said they are looking to make their next step.
Dan Stross, CIO for Genesys Regional Medical Center (a 410-bed hospital 50 miles north of Detroit), said during a panel discussion that his organization is ready to move virtualization to back office systems after reaping benefits from it at kiosks used by medical staff on hospital floors.
The hospital first got into virtualization after finding end users, namely doctors, were dissatisfied with IT services despite Genesys having good clinical systems. It turned out that physicians were mainly frustrated by kiosks that saddled them with 45 second logins and logoffs that might work in an office setting but not in a situation where doctors are moving from kiosk to kiosk throughout the day (“Anything over 10 seconds and they're mad before they even see the application.”). He also tossed off this line that I liked: “Physicians can remember every bone and muscle in your body, but don't ask them to remember more than 2 or 3 usernames and passwords,” he says.
Genesys wound up going with a virtualization product from nSuite (now Symantec Workspace Corporate) because the company was very focused on healthcare organizations. That technology enabled Genesys to get initial logins down to 10 seconds and subsequent ones to 5 seconds or less, and it supports single sign-on. The company's desktop virtualization effort also involves low cost, low energy thin clients from Wyse.
As if virtualizing desktops supporting 30 different applications wasn't enough, next up is virtualizing the back office, which is home to about 100 more applications, Stross said. Genesys will look to virtualize applications and stream them to its office environment, he said.
Rachel Chalmers, a 451 Group research director, noted that while many expected benefits of virtualization have been realized – energy efficiency, decoupling of hardware and software, automation – increasingly virtualization is being recognized as a producer of less obvious results, including HIPAA compliance. Chalmers said that she expected desktop virtualization to fall off after early adopters in the investment banking community saw their businesses implode along with the economy, but she has been encouraged to see hospitals, schools and government agencies pick up the slack.
The pitch from Len Rosenthal, VP of marketing with Virtual Instruments, during a sit-down meeting between sessions was that many organizations fear making the leap to virtualizing their most important applications because of possible performance issues (his company sells products that give visibility into apps performance by examining SAN I/O performance and determining whether ports are underused or overused).
“Virtualization has largely centered around the low-hanging fruit up until now, the testing, development and file serving environments,” he says. “Virtualizing Oracle, SAP and Siebel applications is the next frontier.”