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Virtualization events add options for Windows shops

Virtualization expert John Palmieri reacts to shifting sands in the virtualization market and the benefits to Windows administrators.

The virtualization market saw two seismic events this week that could seriously shake up IT managers' long-range plans for their Windows shops.

First, there was the successful IPO of EMC spinoff VMware Inc., which raised more than $900 million. Then there was Citrix Systems Inc.'s acquisition of XenSource Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., in a deal valued at about $500 million.

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Both acquisitions could expand the range of possibilities for IT managers who are developing their own virtualization strategies and who may also be considering Microsoft's hypervisor, which won't be out until mid-2008 at the earliest. recently interviewed virtualization expert and industry watcher John Palmieri, president and CTO at Computer Resolutions Inc., a Shelton, Conn.-based integrator, about the impact of some of these events for Windows administrators. Where should VMware look to invest? What are the trouble spots for Windows administrators in terms of how they manage their virtualized environments?

John Palmieri: It should continue to make acquisitions at the core of its business to create true solutions versus a product. VMware did well with the acquisition of [Asset Optimization Group] and its capacity planner. Chargeback is a huge issue inside of virtualization. Big customers have created silos within IT where some groups are buying technology on their own. It's been driven by the explosion of client-server. Now we are in the process of reversing the process of client-server with the process of virtualization. There is no way to bill back units for things like process or utilization. It won't be a problem in five to 10 years when people realize this is the way IT is going.

On the other hand, [VMware] has some great programmers and, they say, great ideas. Perhaps it should be developing some of this on its own?

Larry Orecklin, Microsoft's general manager of the System Center products and virtualization, said that "virtualization is a key feature of the operating system and, as such, a technology for which you shouldn't have to pay extra." What are your thoughts on that view?

Palmieri: The challenge that Microsoft has now is that VMware is the operating system. It's turning Windows Server and Windows client into an application that sits on top of hosted virtualization. What [Microsoft] is trying to do is disrupt people from buying the technology now. Microsoft hasn't come out with a great product, and the reason is because it was tied to hardware OSes. [Microsoft] made money on having single OSes on single computers.

Five years ago, virtualization wasn't mainstream. Microsoft and the application vendors said the OS and the application are the only thing that should sit on this piece of hardware. Virtualization changes all of that. Microsoft isn't on top of it, but it should have been. It should have been the one to acquire VMware for $600 million. But it didn't.

VMware invented this in 1999, and here we are in 2007. Microsoft keeps saying here is how we view the market, but it is so late. I've been involved with a lot of large enterprises that have given up on Microsoft and signed enterprise deals with VMware.

Does management of VMware software require any exceptional skills from IT?

Palmieri: You will need skills to manage a virtualized environment. To architect a solution correctly is a limited skill set. Virtualization reaches into storage, servers and the networking infrastructure. It's also a change in how we view the IT business and the way it is architected. Too many times I have seen a company send a guy to school and then feel it can put VMware into production. Even by VMware's standards it's not the way to do it.

There has been no more disruptive technology to come out of the past 20 years than virtualization. It changes everything and reduces the costs. But when you are putting a maximum workload on the infrastructure, you had better know what you are doing. I recommend learning about the VMware Infrastructure methodology, and you will see how virtualization goes wider and deeper.

How will Citrix's acquisition of XenSource factor into the landscape?

Palmieri: This is an answer to VMware's acquisition of Propero Inc. [April 2007]. Citrix did a good job of delivering desktops in the past. Citrix and VMware had a good partnership, and this is a sign that that partnership is over. If you can do desktop virtualization with a connection broker like Citrix and not have to care what is going on on the bottom side of the house, then it's not a bad acquisition. It's Citrix's way of saying we have a virtualization solution for our own desktop customers.

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