President's Corner

This week, we welcome a guest contributor to the President’s Corner. Martha McConaghy leads the team that developed the program content on Total Enterprise Virtualization.  Many thanks, Martha, for sharing your insights on virtualization trends and the breadth of information available in our Austin conference offerings.

Making IT Happen, “Virtually” All the Time
SHARE Program Manager, Martha McConaghy

It’s the newest buzz word, the ""hot topic"" in all the journals and magazines. Virtualization. It's the term that gets the CIO's attention, and shows up in nearly everyone's list of goals for 2009.  Whether you work with networks, distributed systems, storage or mainframes, you are confronted with the term ""virtualization"" every day.  It is hailed as the greatest idea since sliced bread, the salvation of the IT industry.  But, just what does it mean?  Why is it the latest, greatest thing?  Most importantly, how does it relate to your company and to your job?

The irony is that the concept of virtualization isn't new. It has been around nearly as long as the modern computer. The most common implementation of virtualization, the hypervisor, has its roots in the early days of mainframes, when computers were big, expensive and scarce. It was developed to help solve the problem of too much demand for computer services, not enough hardware to go around. Now, the problem has shifted. The demand for computer services grows at an alarming rate. However, so does the cost of maintaining hardware, cabling, and environmentals. Then, there is the enormous ecological cost as well. So, now the IT industry is turning to virtualization to solve the problem of too much demand, too much hardware. It is a classic idea, whose time has finally come.

Once again, mainframe technology is leading the way. After all, they have been doing virtualization for more than 40 years. The platform once thought of as a ""dinosaur"", good for only keeping legacy applications alive, has proven to be much more versatile. The combination of mainframe power and virtualization with Linux applications has blazed the trail towards the reduction of ""cost of ownership"", which other platforms are now trying to emulate. As they make advances, the hardware and software technology of the IBM System z continues to strengthen and refine its capabilities for hosting dozens, even hundreds of servers. As more application environments are added, such as OpenSolaris™, mainframe based virtualization will continue to lead the way.

The impact of virtualization goes well beyond traditional server/application support, however. Advances are being made in other areas of the IT industry, especially storage/SAN and network. Imagine, servers communicating over a network with no wires? Imagine being able to move data from device to device without the server being aware of it? Through the virtualization of network and storage protocols, servers are becoming far less aware of the physical configuration of hardware and networks they use. The introduction of concepts such as vlans, vswitches, SAN volume controllers, and many others, have made it possible for network and storage managers to get beyond the limitations of hardware incompatibility.

Keeping up with all of these sweeping changes in technology is the IT professional's greatest challenge.  Everyone looks to us to be the experts. Yet, with everything changing so drastically so often, even being aware of the new advances can be hard.  Being an expert, nearly impossible.

SHARE is in a unique position of being able to offer the latest and broadest scope of education in virtualization to its members. From the basic concepts of the hypervisor to techniques for consolidating servers, to real life experiences trying to make it all work, the SHARE Enterprise Virtualization theme will cover nearly every aspect of server and service virtualization.  Presenters will cover leading edge research and development work such as OpenSolaris and ""cloud"" computing, as well as the practical issues of analyzing total cost of ownership and evaluating the best decisions for your company.  It is an excellent blend of vendor and customer presentations, providing a unbiased view of how things really work.

So, if you are about to take the plunge or are already struggling with the impact of virtualization, you can't find a better education opportunity than SHARE.

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