Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Andreas Grabner, Steven Lamb, William Schmarzo, Rich DeFabritus

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing

@CloudExpo: Article

Breaking Through the Virtual Glass Ceiling

'Virtualization…all the cool, smart kids are doing it!'

"Virtualization...all the cool, smart kids are doing it!" Or at least that is the message being pushed by the virtualization vendors. Mostly this is a true statement. There are plenty of market studies that show that more than three quarters of medium to large enterprises are leveraging server virtualization technologies of some kind. What is not evident in that statement is that for most enterprises, their overall use of the technology is not as widespread as is implied by the statement. For many organizations, virtualization utilization is in its infancy (from a maturity of use perspective) or not a material percentage of the overall IT infrastructure.

Even with the exponential growth of virtualization usage over the last few years, the majority of applications have been based on simple consolidation ROI and used primarily in areas of low risk (IT assets, or test-development environments). Recently the term "VM Stall" has been thrown out along with some research that identifies some of the top reasons why organizations have initially deployed virtualization at a high rate but then significantly slowed that pace down - a virtual "glass ceiling" built on a number of common factors. The good news is that all of these concerns are addressable, and organizations can continue deploying virtualization and reap not only the simple consolidation ROI, but also start moving toward the operational efficiencies promised by utility or cloud computing. The following sections will outline some of the most common areas of concern and provide some guidance on how organizations can break through that ceiling and achieve their virtualization goals.

Cloud Confusion
Cloud computing (or the vendors pushing it) must take some responsibility for putting the brakes on virtualization deployments. For over a year now, VMware has transitioned their marketing towards "cloud." Every ecosystem software vendor has followed suit with some angle on how their software enables cloud. The problem is that companies that are not sophisticated virtualization users are getting confusing and sometimes conflicting messages not just about what cloud is, but how it can be used. The result of this is that some CIOs are pausing and looking at their virtualization efforts and then attempting to reconcile cloud. Do I even need cloud? When? Do my current virtualization plans conflict with or complement a cloud future? These are all valid questions that unfortunately end with answers like, "It depends." This in itself is not a bad idea, but because of the mixed messages around cloud, making an informed decision can be complicated. My suggestion for organizations that are stuck in cloud confusion: Move forward and keep virtualizing! There are enough benefits to virtualization technologies that warrant moving forward, and based on the road maps of the major hypervisor vendors, the ability to leverage cloud from existing virtualization deployments will be a key feature of each vendor's solution.

Security Concerns
Another key issue that prevents some applications from being deployed in virtual environments revolves around security and compliance. Applications such as health care and financial transactions that fall under regulatory control of HIPAA or PCI have been the ones most impacted by these concerns. Partially this is due to a lack of specific requirements (in the case of HIPAA) or ambiguous language (PCI DSS) in the documentation. The PCI Council has addressed the virtualization concerns in their latest release of the DSS [1] and in its accompanying guidance document,[2] which specifically clarifies that use of virtualization is not specifically excluded from PCI environments. There is also concern over virtualization being "different." Though it's true that virtualization is a new layer in the IT stack, all of the traditional security domains apply. Actions like Access Control, Network Inspection, Segmentation, and Separation of Duty are all required in the virtual datacenter. For some items, existing security measures and software will suffice. In addition, as virtualization has matured, the hypervisor vendors as well as the ecosystem have begun to offer solutions to address these areas with specific attention to the virtual domain. Though virtualization is somewhat different, it's not new security practices that need to be performed, it's new approaches to the same practices that may require virtualization-specific software and staff knowledgeable enough in both virtualization and the security domains to be able to apply the security concepts appropriately.

Staffing Issues
The staffing issue is next in the list of concerns that slow down adoption. It's not just in the security area that a specific virtualization skill set is needed. For many enterprises, virtualization knowledge is held within a small team. This team is independent of the other traditional data center groups of infrastructure, security, storage and software applications. But virtualization is unique in that the domain crosses all of those groups. The typical scenario is that even though an enterprise has been successfully growing the virtual environment (in both size and sophistication), the team may not be keeping pace. At some point the team will start to lose their ability to manage the environment to its fullest, which can manifest itself in a non-performing environment or a reluctance of the team to take on more applications; both slowing and stopping growth. A solution to preventing the situation is first to fully accept that successful virtualization requires a much greater cooperation between what were traditionally siloed technology groups. Something that is easier said than done, but an absolute necessity. This allows for shared responsibility and distribution of the management of portions of the virtual domain to groups better positioned to own these technologies. This will cause a trend toward the virtualization team becoming more architects and conductors of the virtual environment, while the day-to-day management is broken down into the sub-domain experts.

In addition to a shift in the datacenter management staff strategy, it's also important to leverage management tools that enable the cross-domain approach. The virtualization ecosystem is filled with software solutions tailored to specific problems or tasks. If there is no alternative, IT departments must purchase some very specific point solutions to solve problems. The downside to point solutions is that in quantity they become very cumbersome to manage. There can be a long learning curve for each product and the combined costs may also reach a point where the operational costs cut too deeply into the expected returns of virtualization. The large software vendors and some forward-thinking smaller vendors are aware of this issue. While large vendors are buying up the smaller point solutions to integrate into their management portfolio, small vendors are busy building virtualization-specific, cross domain management tools. Both approaches are valid as there are many knobs and dials in virtual management, and it's highly likely that different staff in very different roles will need to access the same controls and information. The choice is to buy different tools for each group, thus driving up operating expense, or deploying software designed for the virtual datacenter that provides both the consolidated management and domain-specific controls and views. When choosing the tools, look for real integration of the tool sets in both user interface and reporting. The power of such tools is the ability to leverage data across multiple control planes through a common interface.

There is strong evidence that enterprises reach a level of virtualization deployment that causes the process to slow down, and that cloud confusion, security and compliance, enterprise/staff maturity, and manageability are top on many CIO's minds. Virtualization and cloud computing are a paradigm shift. With that shift lies the commonality in all of the suggestions above, a change in approach and thinking for how datacenters are managed, that will enable organizations break through the virtualization glass ceiling.


  1. https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/documents.php
  2. https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/documents/navigating_dss_v20.pdf

More Stories By Mike Wronski

Mike Wronski is Vice President of Product Management for Reflex Systems. He brings more than 15 years of industry experience to his role as VP of Product Management for Reflex Systems. Mike's broad IT experience, ranging from large carrier data networking to virtualization stems from previously held senior roles at Starent Networks(now part of Cisco), Cambia Networks, 3Com and USRobotics. Wronski holds a CISSP and Certified Ethical Hacker certifications, as well as an MBA, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Florida International University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), sponsor of the IoTivity open source project, and AllSeen Alliance, which provides the AllJoyn® open source IoT framework, today announced that the two organizations’ boards have approved a merger under the OCF name and bylaws. This merger will advance interoperability between connected devices from both groups, enabling the full operating potential of IoT and representing a significant step towards a connected ecosystem.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today’s global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.