Virtualization

The impacts of virtualising each and every wheel

In the next few years, virtualisation is set to jump out of the server and inhabit the rest of the datacentre, and it's going to change your job.

Shared capacity, abstracted resources, automated deployments — these terms may be currently restricted to the domain of virtual machines, but over the next few years, expect the hype cycle to charge up as vendors attempt to push the use of virtual storage arrays and virtual networking.

Over the past couple of days attending the VMworld 2013 conference, a new back-end path for datacentre computing has been laid out: It's a world where each and every resource is defined and controlled by software, where all the physical resources are pooled, and no segment avoids a layer of abstraction.

The introduction of a networking abstraction layer into the hypervisor may on one level look like a swing at Cisco, but its deeper implications on an IT employment level reflect those expressed last week that many systems administrators will have to branch out beyond their comfort zone.

In a panel of storage vendors and administrators today, one piece of advice shone through: That application knowledge is going all the way down through the IT stack. Storage administrators are hardly the most radical people from a change-embracing standpoint, so when they are projecting a change in their own roles, you know that world is shifting.

Technologies like NSX, which allows for movement of some switching and routing onto the hypervisor itself, changes the way that networks are treated.

Whereas previously, the network administrators could always retreat to a world full of physical wires and router consoles, should NSX be deployed on their network, they will have to take an interest in what the hypervisor is up to. At the same time, with the management tools for such functionality being very simple to use — almost dangerously too simple to use, my inner sysadmin says — there is every chance that developers and even users will be creating virtual networks in their usage.

If your role is concerned primarily about the network, then you will want to know what those virtual networks are up to, and how they are configured.

That will involve a trip up the stack, as the hitherto mere users of systems attempt to make their way down the stack under the auspices of automation and application wrapping.

Much of the talk at this event has been around changing the old 80:20 ratio of workload for IT people. That's the magic ratio where 80 percent of a worker's time is taken up by maintenance, and 20 percent is dedicated to "innovation".

It always sounds possible to change such workloads in theory, but as network and storage admins acquire the skills and knowledge to start working with the rest of the stack efficiently, the old 80:20 ratio will return.

Instead of dealing with dozens of systems, maybe a worker will be able to deal with tens or even hundreds, but instead of being a pure administrator, the delineation between roles starts to become blurred.

As virtualisation reaches deeper into the datacentre, and makes over everything it touches with automation and one-touch configurations, IT workers are going to have to become multi-disciplined to deal with it.

With hypervisors growing ever fatter as more functionality is poured into them, why not create the role of "hypervisor engineer" and be done with it?

The saving grace at the moment is that the push into virtualising the entire datacentre is one that will occur over a decade or so, not in a couple of years.

The software-defined datacentre is coming, it's unlikely to be stopped, but it will only inch its way forward rather than appearing in your ops centre overnight.

You've been warned.

Chris Duckett travelled to VMworld 2013 as a guest of VMware.

About

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

0 comments