Thursday, 22 November 2012

Virtualisation to Address Fault Tolerance Issues



ZD Net contributing author Dan Kusnetzky recently wrote a very compelling piece talking about virtualization and how it relates to fault tolerance in the cloud computing and colocation environments. The main thrust of his piece was the assertion that the need for affordable fault tolerance is driving the next generation of virtualization software. He's probably right.

As Kusnetzky correctly points out, the cost of acquiring hardware for a new start-up or expansion can be harmful to the bottom line if purchasers don't look for the least expensive equipment possible. Throw in the cost of the datacentre training necessary to properly use more advanced equipment, and you have a recipe in which IT managers and company accountants would rather trust virtualisation rather than investing in the most expensive hardware.

Kusnetzky points out that this type of thinking is not necessarily a bad thing as long as a data centre has the proper virtualisation technology in place to quickly address fault issues. Right now, the biggest downside to virtualisation is that it doesn't offer the near instant response provided by advanced hardware options. But, he says, that looks like it's changing.

If he's right, virtualisation providers like VMware and Citrix may already be aggressively pursuing more robust and scalable solutions. Even companies like Microsoft and Oracle (makers of VirtualBox) will be forced to get on board if they expect to keep up. The inevitable result should be new virtualisation software that takes cloud computing, networking, and managed services to the next level. It's an exciting time to be part of the data centre and colocation industry.

What It Means to the Customer

Practically speaking the average data centre customer won't be impacted in the short term. As good as virtualisation software is, it's nowhere near ready to replace advanced hardware solutions with dedicated fault response built-in. But as virtualisation options become more robust clients should experience more consistent uptime and fewer faults.

The changes will directly help them by keeping their websites readily available at all times. But it will also help indirectly due to the competition among data centres to gain and keep new customers. That competition will encourage them to offer new virtualisation packages, better support systems, and better pricing.

The only question that remains is one of who will cross the finish line first. Among all the virtualisation developers none stands out right now as the clear leader in advanced fault response technology. One would expect a company like Citrix, which earns its living on virtualisation, to be ahead of the game. But even Oracle wants to be on the cutting edge in order to stay ahead of Microsoft, despite the fact that their VirtualBox product is open source and free.

Kusnetzky predicts suppliers like Stratus and Marathon Technologies are likely to lead the way. There's no reason to believe he's wrong, but we'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime data centres will have to continue making do with current virtualization technologies and upgraded hardware when they can afford it.

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