Virtual reality check

For most of 2006, we’ve witnessed an interesting phenomenon at Information Age’s regular reader events.

No matter the starting point for the discussion at our roundtable debates and conferences, there has been one subject that delegates kept coming back to. Whether the event’s focus is data centres or search, email management or energy, the recurring theme – uttered often as a war cry against inefficiency – has been ‘virtualisation’.

I say war cry because few if anyone in those sessions has had a critical word to say about virtualisation: “It trebles server and storage utilisation levels”; “it enables the provisioning of on-demand computing”; “it wrestles back control of the desktop”; “it reduces energy consumption and saves the planet” (that one was only said in semi-jest.)

And, evidently, we are not the only ones hearing this.

If you were one of the 7,000 who attended VMware’s third annual user conference in Los Angeles last month, you are only too aware of the extent to which normally rational IT executives are viewing virtualisation as a panacea for some of the major woes of IT.

As love-ins go, VMworld 2006 was shameless, even by Southern Californian standards. For four days the virtual faithful sat through back-to-back sermons that extolled the many virtues of doing things the virtual way.

In our cover feature this month, we report on much of that ‘good news’ – and, yes, in many cases virtualisation does represent relief from some of today’s major IT challenges. But Phil Jones’ insightful article also successfully goes beyond the euphoria that springs from the discovery of one technology that actually, for once, over-delivers.

He asks some fundamental questions about how far virtualisation has come and how far it can go, concluding that there is considerably more work to be done before the virtualisation vision as set forth by the evangelists can be fully realised.

You only need to look at the lack of mature management tools for virtualised environments, or the paucity of evidence that virtual servers can really scale to the peaks virtualisation’s proponents would have us believe or the smouldering issue of how just many Microsoft software licences it takes to legally live in a virtual world to know that virtualisation Nirvana is a little further down the road.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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