Licensing issues still dog virtualisation deployment

Application software vendors not helping virtualisation rollouts, CTO says

According to its proponents, virtualisation has taken the world by storm, but for end-users requiring application support, migrating services from physical to virtual machines is not so easy.

Glenn Gore, CTO at hosting and domain provider Melbourne IT, says the application software vendors are still dragging their feet when it comes to helping their customers adopt virtualisation.

With 3,500 servers running 1,000 virtual machines and 600TB of storage, Gore claims Melbourne IT was one of the first hosting providers to implement virtualisation, which was first looked at to add flexibility.

"Application support is not as bad now as it was four years ago [but] software vendors are saying you can run a product in a virtual machine, but if there is a problem you need to re-create the problem on a physical machine which is a pain," Gore says.

"What's the one thing that is hard about managing and IT environment? It's the unpredictability and virtualisation helps overcome that."

Gore says during any 24-hour period Melbourne IT will move 30% of its virtual machines to different locations within its server farm and 60% of new business is hosted on them.

"It is ironic that the same companies that don't certify their products for virtual machines also ask for the application to be sent back in a virtual machine for testing and they don't have a problem using virtualisation for internal software development."

Gore also sympathised with the application vendors saying the support issues of the environment — like the workload of the virtual machine — may be unclear if virtual machines can be configured and moved so readily by the customer.

"Managing big, complex environments has become much easier with vSphere," he said, adding Melbourne IT also uses VMware's vShield virtual firewall product as the "foundation" of its cloud.

Regarding licensing of application in the virtual world, Gore says vendors should look at a combination of "per instance" and "workload" as licensing per CPU or core becomes less relevant.

"There is no consistent way among the vendors of licensing application software for virtual machines and this is a real nightmare," he says, adding some vendors allow running of their software inside a virtual machine, but it still must be licensed per physical server.

VMware Australia and New Zealand managing director Paul Harapin says the problems associated with application support in the virtual world are subsiding as vendors begin to see the benefits of virtualisation.

"Some application vendors still require problems to be re-created on physical machines, but we provide tools to automate this so it's less of a concern," Harapin says.

Harapin says while some application vendors don't officially "certify" their products to be used in virtual machines, at the same time they will still support them.

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