10 Biggest Virtualization Stories Of 2011

Virtualization Market: Hitting On All Cylinders

While the virtualization market is still attracting tons of attention, the technology's maturity on the server side is leading to more activity in other areas of the IT infrastructure stack. Organizations are now taking a hard look at desktop and user virtualization technologies, even as they look beyond to the cloud and all of its attendant preparatory expenditures.

From VMware setting the tone for consumption-based licensing, to Apple's iPad providing a much needed spark for the virtual desktop market, and Google teaming with VMware and Citrix to get enterprise applications running on Chromebooks, this was a year in which vendors did more than their usual amount of strategic maneuvering. Following are 10 examples.

10. Virtualization Management Takes Center Stage

Virtualization simplifies IT through consolidation, but the growth of VMs within an organization, coupled with the addition of desktop and storage virtualization, has been known to make IT administrators' heads spin. That's a big reason why virtualization management has emerged as one of the hottest sectors of the IT industry.

In January, Solarwinds, an Austin, Texas-based IT management software vendor acquired startup Hyper9. In February, NetApp paid $60 million to acquire Akorri, a Littleton, Mass.-based firm whose BalancePoint product conducts performance capacity analytics in virtual and physical server and storage environments. And in March, VMware released vCenter Operations Suite, which handles performance, capacity and configuration management in virtual and cloud environments running on VSphere. Given the inability for legacy management tools to handle the rigors of virtual and cloud environments, this is a space that's sure to continue being a top-of-mind concern for many companies.

9. Mobile Virtualization Comes Into Focus

Mobile workers have long pined for the ability to conduct their personal and business affairs on a single smartphone, but data security and device management concerns have prevented this from becoming reality. But in September, VMware launched Horizon Mobile, a product that uses virtualization to create this segregation in a way that's acceptable to IT departments.

Horizon Mobile uses virtualization to create a locked-down phone-within-a-phone which walls off a user's mobile workspace from their personal space, and it comes with advanced management features that gives IT the ability to remotely provision and de-provision devices.

VMware is partnering with LG and Samsung to bring Horizon Mobile-equipped Android smartphones to market. While other companies offer software that achieves the same goal, Horizon Mobile represents one of the more innovative approaches to the problem to date.

8. Citrix Branches Out Into The SMB Market

Citrix Systems wants a bigger piece of the pie in the SMB space, and its acquisition in May of desktop virtualization startup Kaviza, maker of VDI-In-a-Box, was a big step down this road. Since then, Citrix has unveiled its first branded version of VDI-In-a-Box, which ties into its cloud support service Citrix GoToManage to improve the functioning of VDI-In-a-Box in managed services scenarios.

That's not all: To get more SMB focused VARs into its channel program, Citrix in November unveiled an SMB-focused partner certification. Mike Fouts, Citrix's newly anointed senior director of Americas channels and field operations, has made building the company's SMB channel ranks a top goal for the coming year.

7. Big Switch Networks Aims High In Network Virtualization

In Big Switch's view, the networking industry needs a VMware, and this plucky startup intends to fill this gap.

Big Switch Networks, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based network virtualization startup, arrived this year and immediately declared its intention to pull off the kind of transformation in the networking industry that VMware has managed to achieve in server virtualization, piggybacking on the emergence of software-defined networking.

Big Switch Networks uses the OpenFlow switching protocol to alleviate the tedium of configuring and managing network devices. Its approach manages physical hosts plugged into the network through a virtual network layer that sits on top. Not only does make networks easier to manage, it also speeds the process of adding capacity to the underlying physical topology.

6. Microsoft Decides To Include Hyper-V On Windows 8 Client

Microsoft isn't expected to release Windows 8 until sometime next fall, but the software giant surprised industry watchers this past September by announcing its intention to include Hyper-V in the client side.

Hyper-V has been part of Windows Server since its launch in 2008, and with Windows 8, Microsoft will provide a way to run more than one 32- or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same computer. "We will support virtualization on the Windows 'client' OS," Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, said in a blog post published at the start of Microsoft's Build conference.

Microsoft also gave Build attendees a sneak peek of Hyper-V 3.0, slated for launch with the next version of Windows Server, an upgrade that significantly boosts the hypervisor's performance and capacity.

5. Google Teams With Citrix, VMware on Chromebooks

When Google unveiled its Chromebook in May and positioned them as a lower cost competitor to Windows, one of the first questions industry watchers had was whether they'd be able to run enterprise applications.

By way of response, Google is teaming up with Citrix and VMware -- vendors with which it hasn’t had much interaction in the past -- to build virtualization bridges to solve this issue and make Chrome potentially attractive to business users.

Citrix in August released a technology preview of Receiver for Chrome OS, and VMware is working on a similar product. While it's too early to tell whether Chromebooks are going to give Windows a bona fide challenge, Google's strategy of getting virtualization vendors involved shows that it's serious about luring the enterprise.

4. User Virtualization Comes Into Vogue

AppSense, a 12-year-old vendor in the user virtualization space, received a $70 million venture capital infusion from Goldman Sachs that served to kick this segment of the market into a higher gear.

User virtualization has grown from its roots in profile management to a technology that addresses thorny issues around virtual desktop migrations, such as the need to maintain user settings and other aspects of personalization. Now companies like RES Software, Liquidware Labs, Tricerat and Unidesk are poised to benefit from the increased attention this segment is attracting.

3. Desktop Virtualization And iPads

Any doubts as to which tablet is driving more desktop virtualization business in the channel were extinguished this year as the iPad emerged as the "honey badger" of the enterprise mobility market. And yes, there are dozens of Android tablets, and HP released one in July for about six weeks, but these also-rans are headed toward the ignominy of the IT industry scrap heap.

The ability to show running full desktops and applications on the iPad using virtualization has been a powerful business catalyst for some solution providers.

"Pretty much every scenario we go into involves a demo that includes an iPad. They're extremely effective conversation starters and deal closers," Mike Strohl, president of Entisys, a Concord, Calif.-based virtualization VAR, told CRN in March.

2. VMware's Cloud Foundry

VMware unveiled a beta of its Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service in April as a way for developers to rewrite apps in Java so that they'll run well on VMware-powered private clouds. Cloud Foundry is also VMware's recognition, one often voiced by CEO Paul Maritz, that most developers today are young and enamored of emerging development frameworks and languages like Ruby, Node.js and Spring, the last of which VMware picked up in its August 2009 acquisition of SpringSource.

Cloud Foundry also gives VMware a chance to crow about the efficiency of its competitive recruitment efforts: It was designed with help from Mark Lucovsky, technical director at VMware, and Derek Collison, chief architect of VMware's Cloud Services division, both of whom VMware poached from Google.

Cloud Foundry is still in beta, but developers are reportedly reacting positively to it, and HP is running it on the HP Cloud Services private beta it rolled out in September.

1. VMware Takes Steps Toward Consumption Based Licensing

With its launch of vSphere 5 in July, VMware pushed the performance and capacity of its cloud OS to lofty new heights. But along with the improvements came vRAM, a change to the previous vSphere licensing model that represented VMware's biggest step to date in the direction of consumption based licensing.

VMware already uses per-virtual machine pricing for its vCenter products, but in this case the shift to vRAM didn't go smoothly. Some customers freaked out when they did the math and concluded that their heavily memory-overcommitted servers would be costing them way more with vSphere 5.

VMware later altered its terms to double its initial vRAM allotments, and that soothed customers' angst. Now, VMware CEO Paul Maritz is making it know that future licensing changes are likely on the road to the consumption based model. If the first step was any indication, it could be a bumpy ride.