VMware's popularity belies its complexity

Save on server costs but pay for it in other ways

Suddenly all things virtual are good. After VMware's IPO last week, the whole world has discovered virtualization's value proposition.

VMware's value proposition is simple. Instead of purchasing 5, 10, or 30 physical servers from Dell that each host a single application, you only need to purchase one physical server and VMware's software which can then host these different applications.

Businesses love this as VMware allows them to realize immediate cost savings. It eliminates the requirement to buy new hardware every time businesses need a new application which shortens project implementation life cycles. It also means fewer servers on data center floors which reduce cabling, power and floor space requirements.

Where businesses need to exercise caution in this new virtual environment is the complexity that virtualization introduces. Though businesses can virtualize servers and, in so doing, reduce their infrastructure costs, complexity takes on a virtual component as well.

For instance, backups become much more complex. Prior to VMware, each physical server often had its own dedicated network connection it could use for backups. Now each virtual server must share the same physical network connection with other virtual servers on the VMware host.

Unfortunately the amount of data each virtual server needs to backup has not necessarily diminished, only its available bandwidth. This may force companies to implement alternative storage technologies such as continuous data protection or storage system based asynchronous replication so servers are no longer backed up in traditional methods. This introduces new costs into the system and, with it, new levels of complexity.

VMware helps bring about an end to the "new application, new server" mentality to which companies are accustomed. But virtualization does not eradicate complexity and as complexity moves, corporate IT departments need to ensure storage technologies keep pace with similar progress in server virtualization.

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst with DCIG. He may be reached at jerome.wendt@att.net.

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