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Data orchestration - the next big trend

Virtualised datacentres will act in unison. That's the theory...

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The conductor raises his hands, pauses, the baton sweeps down then up to signal the start of the piece, and the assembled musicians play in unison, according to the conductor's instructions.

Virtualised datacentres will look like that, if a big trend at San Francisco's VMworld 2007, this year's virtualisation industry conference, is anything to go by. Last year, the show, which brought together VMware, its partners and a whole bunch of other industry players, including rivals, was about how great virtualisation technology is.

This year saw a different approach. It was much more about how the technology needs managing, an acknowledgement that virtualisation has moved a notch or two along the infamous hype cycle generated by research company Gartner. According to Gartner, while hypervisor-based virtualisation is sliding down the trough of disillusionment, the more entrenched hardware partitioning is entering the plateau of productivity.

But VM relocation - the ability to move virtual machines around the datacentre according to the availability of resources, the requirements of the VM and of business policies, and to fit in with disaster recovery plans - is at the peak of inflated expectations. The fact that vendors were wheeling out grandiose phrases such as datacentre orchestration lends weight to that judgement.

VMware itself helped start the trend with the launch of Site Recovery Manager immediately before the show. The company reckoned that SRM improves organisations' ability to recover their datacentres when disasters and outages occur by automating the setting up, testing, and execution of recovery plans.

VMware followed up with the acquisition of Dunes Technologies, a Swiss company that provides virtual environment automation technology. Products' VP Raghu Raghuram said that VMware had bought the company because of its "powerful orchestration platform that will allow us to automate the entire virtual machine lifecycle from requisition to de-commissioning."

In a similar part of the forest, Virtugo Software upgraded its flagship software suite to improve its ability to plan for virtual capacity, manage virtual desktops, and track resource use within physical and virtual environments, according to the vendor. The new VirtualSuite 6 allows you to monitor host and virtual servers in real-time, as well as optimise the performance of applications running on the servers in the virtual environment, the company said.

Surgient was also at the show, and won a best product gong for its VQMS product, which was described as "a capable, enterprise-scale lab automation solution," by the editorial staff of Techworld's sister publication InfoWorld. VQMS enables organisations to centrally manage and automate the deployment of complex software testing environments.

CiRBA launched perhaps the most advanced of the third-party datacentre orchestration products at VMworld. Also winning a best of show credit for Capacity Planning, Consolidation Software, the company released version 4.4 of its consolidation and virtualisation analysis software. The new features allow enterprises to achieve optimal initial placements for virtual machines, and improves the ability to manage and govern VMware virtualised environments.

It has a library of VM images that understands how "to assemble them into application configurations - complex multi-tier applications," according to CiRBA co-founder and CTO Andrew Hillier. This means it can generate a complex SAP environment by looking at the capacity available and allocating the right resources, including networking, for as long as is required, reckoned Hillier.

Even Cisco got into the game, by announcing that it was integrating its VFrame Data Center with VMware Virtual Infrastructure. Cisco server virtualisation marketing manager Bill Erdman described it as "providing the same kind of boot capabilities across the network as we've already been shipping for Windows and Linux. So the benefit is that the customer could build a utility farm of servers that they choose from when they want to boot a Linux server or a Windows server, or an ESX server."

And VMware co-founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum concluded the VMworld pizzazz with a demo of upcoming technology, namely a feature called Continuous Availability. This allows two VMs to run in lock-step at the processor level so that, if one goes down, the other can pick up without interruption, automatically. It brought the house down.

Along with the other big upcoming trend of desktop virtualisation which, if played out to its ultimate conclusion, will return us to the days of the mainframe - only with coloured rather than green screens - the totally mobile virtual machine is the end goal of a large and growing number of today's newly minted products.

You can expect to hear more about it.


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