Virtualisation and the death of reality

VOA - virutalisation-oriented architecture - is the next big thing, says Tom Yager

It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in virtualising everything from systems to storage. Zero reality is my mantra.

Robust storage virtualisation is an approachable and, I’d argue, essential goal today. Infrastructure virtualisation — such as a LAN that remakes itself without the need to pull wires, or power and cooling routing that focuses on need — is, realistically, a next-horizon task. If we work together to put virtualised storage and infrastructure in sync with the trajectory of virtual systems, we’ll witness the birth of VOA (virtualisation-oriented architecture) and the dying of reality as IT knows and despises it.

VOA calls to mind the use of virtualisation to make SOAs (service-oriented architectures) more durable, mobile and versatile. I hesitate to plot that as the first stop along VOA’s longer path, because I can see SOA and virtualisation — brilliant, simple technologies — pairing to devolve into an enterprise Frankenstein of ultimately unmanageable complexity.

SOA and virtualisation do, however, hold much promise if reducing complexity is the primary purpose.

I coined the phrase VOA to describe an approach to finer-grained system virtualisation that builds on a transparently integrated combination of system, storage and infrastructure virtualisation that doesn’t abstract reality. Abstraction breeds complexity. VOA just blows reality away.

My over-arching concept of VOA employs virtualised resources to turn ever more fine-grained requests into jump balls. The key to my concept is that no special effort or knowledge is required by architects, developers or IT. In a safe transitional stage that bridges SOA to VOA virtual systems will fire up, suspend and relocate to ensure that service requests get the fastest possible response. The first cut of VOA will reduce SOA complexity and lead time by simplifying deployment and operations architecture processes. Systems and storage become a cloud on the design diagram, and a single SOA rollout doesn’t have a discrete bill of materials.

When I look two horizons ahead, I see my true vision of VOA. Reducing the pain of up-front architecture and design effort will give way to the safe abandonment of awareness of physical reality for everyone from development to operations. VOA’s units of work and run-time allocated resources are familiar and natural, and they don’t require extension to development tools, APIs or management tools. Except for those times when the “check engine” light comes on, my VOA world is one where no human needs to be aware of the physical location of processes, TCP/IP connections, allocated memory, storage or anything.

My concept of VOA is far more detailed and there are lots of steps along the path, where preparations are made and intermediate rewards reaped. My concept relies on evolution towards the ideal state of point-to-point, high-speed networking; memory speed and density; safe shared access to a single storage volume and other factors. All the required ingredients already exist as discrete or primitive technologies. It just takes vision — far more than my own. In fact, vision would be a reasonable alternate for the V in VOA.

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