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Beyond Virtualization to the Reliable, Dynamic Data Center

Exclusive Q&A with Christine Crandell, Executive VP and CMO for Egenera

"When coupled with network and storage virtualization, virtual machines offer sophisticated forms of high availability, disaster recovery, and service migration across all forms of platforms," says Christine Crandell, Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer for Egenera in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal. "When managed together, these new levels of abstraction will enable true utility computing, ‘cloud' style elastic compute services, and forms of IT services that are fully driven by business priorities rather than technical convenience."

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Virtualization Journal: Virtualization helps data centers become more cost-efficient - what are some of the other benefits?

Christine Crandell: Virtualization has helped data centers become more efficient but virtualization is not an end-in-itself, but an enabler of higher-level services. More advanced software will be needed to manage the many types of virtualization to deliver more reliable, dynamic data center services. Customers will begin to demand tools that manage not just virtual machines, but that integrate the management of all forms of virtualization - OS, I/O, network and storage - and do so across multi-vendor technologies. When coupled with network and storage virtualization, virtual machines offer sophisticated forms of high availability, disaster recovery, and service migration across all forms of platforms. When managed together, these new levels of abstraction will enable true utility computing, "cloud" style elastic compute services, and forms of IT services that are fully driven by business priorities rather than technical convenience.

The market is demanding a new breed of hybrid tools and infrastructure to manage mixed physical and virtualized environments, with multiple types of virtualization technologies from multiple vendors. Management tools, such as PAN Manager, allow data centers to finally make extraordinarily efficient use of hardware and network assets, plus simplify or even automate many of today's administrative tasks. It will be realistic to expect CapEx and OpEx savings of up to 70%.

Virtualization Journal: Is the Dell/PAN System closed/proprietary, or based on open industry standards?

Christine: The Dell/PAN System is based on open industry standards and the most commonly implemented technologies. PAN Manager software by Egenera is an infrastructure orchestration solution that unifies virtual and physical infrastructure management, and over 350 customers worldwide have standardized on PAN Manager's reliable virtualized architecture. PAN Manager supports popular hypervisors, SANs and server platforms, which enables PAN Manager to be hardware, operating system and virtualization environment agnostic.

Virtualization Journal: If open, then which of the main hypervisors does it support?

Christine: PAN Manager Software by Egenera supports hypervisors from VMware, Citrix Zen and Microsoft Hyper-V.

Virtualization Journal: What's the most common mistake people make with virtualization projects?

Christine: Virtualization has been around for several decades in the mainframe environment. In all its forms, today's virtualization is basically a learning experience with people working their way across a continuum of data center sophistication. Organizations often start with server virtualization to realize savings in hardware server spend and floor space in their data centers. What they don't realize is that this is the entry point and with it their level of data center complexity will increase threefold. Management challenges will also increase as they tackle issues such as VM sprawl and managing physical and virtual assets. There is also a belief that everything will be virtualized. Reality is quite different; what's being virtualized are edge applications and non mission-critical business applications and the truly mission-critical application will remain on physical machines for quite some time. In summary, many companies don't realize at the outset of their first virtualization project that they are embarking on a multi-year data center transformation and that they need a clear strategy for the transformation.

Virtualization Journal: Tell us a little, if you would, about Egenera's background as a company. Has the data center always been your main focus?

Christine: Egenera was formed in March 2000 with a very clear mission that remains with us today - significantly reduce data center complexity. We began as a hardware company selling BladeFrames, which was a revolutionary piece of hardware years ahead of the market. Egenera integrated hardware systems form the foundation of the reliable dynamic data center by seamlessly combining the scalability and utility of blade servers with the price performance of industry standard components. Our Processing Blades contain only processors and memory enabling flexible statelessness to effortlessly match computing resources with their application demand. The result is mainframe-class functionality and the industry's lowest total cost of ownership for unmatched performance, reliability and simplicity - the hallmarks of Egenera solutions.

When our engineers designed the BladeFrame, they also developed PAN Manager to logically abstract all the hardware components into a GUI so they can be managed remotely. That removed the need for the data center administrator to cable and re-cable SANs and servers when an application was moved to a different server or when a new server was installed. Our wire-once, always-on hardware was welcome music to many large data centers and IT staff. A few years ago we realized that the secret sauce of Egenera was the PAN Manager software. We defined a guiding vision that drives all our product development, PAN Everywhere. Whereby PAN Manager Software becomes a de facto standard in the data center to orchestrate all the assets, physical and virtual.

Virtualization Journal: How does Egenera see the future of the data center? How much of a role will the cloud play in Enterprise IT, for example?

Christine: I see data centers rapidly evolving into reliable dynamic data centers. So what do we mean? At Egenera, we've adopted the Burton Group's definition, which says "The dynamic data center is born from the orchestration of virtualized IT systems and resources."

A reliable dynamic data center is the next step after virtualization - that's because virtualization is the essential foundation. Without it, companies cannot achieve the agility, flexibility, and reliability needed to evolve into a reliable dynamic data center. Let's look at what the data center of the future will be - it won't be homogeneous - rather it will be highly heterogeneous with components like computing, I/O, and storage stitched together through intelligent fabrics. A holistic infrastructure management system will manage all assets - physical and virtual - including those internally owned and externally service-provided (cloud), all through a centralized console.

Server virtualization is mainstream with almost 70% of companies use x86 virtualization and many are looking at their RISC and mainframe systems for additional opportunities. The benefits of virtualization go well beyond consolidation. Cost reduction is often the starting point, but the benefits really extend well beyond TCO. Virtualization can help you speed development cycles and new resources faster. Companies that have been using server virtualization for 2+ years (that's about 50% of companies) have realized that virtualization - in its many forms - positively impacts quality of service and their ability to meet SLAs. Automated provisioning, high availability, and disaster recovery are easier and cheaper to implement.

The next evolutionary stage is to address application workload consolidation as a critical enabler of speed, efficiency, and optimization. They enable dynamic allocation and balancing of computing resources based on business policy. Other critical components include unified fabrics, standardized management interfaces, an orchestration engine, and IT governance.

Virtualization Journal: How important is it to be OS-agnostic for a company like Egenera?

Christine: Being OS-, SAN-, and network-agnostic is central to our value proposition. Being agnostic by supporting all popular OS, SAN, networking and platforms enable us to shield the data center administrator from the underlying complexity of the data center. It also enables customer choice. We've learned from our 350+ customers worldwide that each data center is different and to deliver meaningful value we need to support the leading technologies. It allows us to focus on what we do best - provisioning and managing physical and virtual assets, N+1 high availability, and disaster recovery - all in one single, easy-to-use solution. And it enables our customers to do what they do best, which is delivering reliable and flexible computing when, where, and in a form the business needs.

Virtualization Journal: What's the impact of the economic turndown on the demand for virtualization? How about on Egenera as a company?

Christine: The economic downturn has impacted every industry, household, and person, virtualization included. That being said, the impact on virtualization hasn't been as hard as in some other areas of technology. That is because data centers are in the midst of the most significant transformation in decades. And virtualization, along with dynamic workload management and cloud computing, are foundational elements of the emerging data center model. The transformation is being driven by the fact that companies are doing business differently and have vastly different computing needs than 10 years ago. Globalization, business models that involved networks of suppliers and customers, a proliferation of Internet-connected sensors and actuators across the value chain requires IT resources that are more tightly aligned with the business. IT needs to be more nimble in how it responds to elastic demand, new technologies, and equally elastic business relationships.

What we're seeing is that the demand for virtualization remains healthy but the sales cycles are lengthening, with more approval levels and postponed purchases. Various industry analysts believe that demand for virtualization in 2009 will remain relatively flat to 2008. However, the cash crunch trickles down to impact all companies. Egenera took proactive steps earlier this year to align our expenses accordingly to maintain a conservative and fiscally responsible approach to managing our business.

Virtualization Journal: What is the most important advice you would offer today's data center managers and infrastructure engineers?

Christine: The fact is that the demands on IT have not changed as a result of the economy. Yes, spending will be curtailed, but a lot of spending will continue. It has to in order to support the business. IT spending will focus on increasing services levels while cutting costs, and building more agility and reliability into IT while better aligning with business goals. Investment areas include infrastructure virtualization management, dynamic workload management, higher density computers, moving edge applications to cloud computing service providers, and tools for power management, to name just a few. The motivators are reduced operating expenses with improved service levels.

The challenge for data center managers is picking the right vendors. Many companies have resorted to a homogeneous or "single vendor" strategy in their data center. The belief is that buying from the biggest leader in any category is safer in times like this even if the solution is close to "good enough." Data center managers and infrastructure engineers should look at their longer IT term strategy and understand how the "best solutions" fit into their standards, architecture, and business needs. What many are finding is that the key lies in next-generation data center tools that effectively manage highly shared and automated computing environments. At the same time, companies should realize that they need to be "in position" for when the economy rebounds. For some companies that means having higher availability, reliable disaster recovery, SaaS applications, and a lower-cost model. The bottom line is things can't just stop.

Cloud Computing Technology Contributors of 2009
10Gen, 3Leaf Systems, 6fusion International, Absolute Performance, Ajaxo, Alentus, Appirio, Appistry, Aptaria, Arena Maxtronic, Arista Networks, Asankya Networks, BitRock, BlueLock, Boomi , Box.net, Canaan Partners, Casdex, Chris Richardson Consulting, CITTIO, Cloud Architects, Cloud9 Analytics, CloudRamp, CloudScale Networks, Cloudscape.ws, CloudWorks, CNI Systems, CohesiveFT, CollabNet, Concentric, Cordys, Cronus Partners, CSRware, CuperTek, Cycle Computing, Dataline, Dell, DNAmail, eBay, Elastra, Engine Yard, Enki Consulting, Enomaly, Excelian, Flexiscale, Forrester, Fortress ITX, G.ho.st, Gear6, GigaSpaces, GraphLogic, GridGain, IBRIX, InfoQ, IntelePeer, IronKey, Iterative Designs, ITO America, Jamcracker, Joyent, JumpBox, Just Skill, Kaavo, Linxter, Mohr Davidow Ventures, MessageLabs, Mimecast, Model Metrics, Moderro Technologies, Moka5 (MokaFive), Mosso, Netmagic, NewServers, Ocarina Networks, Panorama Software, Parabon Computation, Parallels, ParaScale, Patni Computer Systems, Peer1 Networks, Platform Computing, PLX Technology, ProjectLocker, Promise Technology, Qlayer, QlikTech, Rackspace, RampRate, Red Hat, Reliance Globalcom, RightScale, Robson Taylor, Rogue Wave, rPath, Salesforce.com, Sapotek, Saugatuck Technology, ScanSafe, ServePath, ServiceCloud, SIMtone, SkillSoft, Skytap, SmugMug, SOASTA, Solace Systems, Spiceworks, SpiderOak, Symphony Services, Tap In Systems, Teneros, Terremark, Transitive, Trend Micro, Union Square Advisors, Unisys, Univa UD, uTest, Vertica, Weber Shandwick, Widen Enterprises, XCalibre, Zabovo.com, Zeus Technology, and Zuora.

Virtualization Technology Contributors of 2009

123Together.com, 361 Degrees, 3PAR, 8e6 Technologies, A10 Networks, Aastra, Accario, Accellion, AccessFlow, AceNet, ACMA, Acronis, Actional, activePDF, Acxiom, Adaptec, ADC, Adder, Adexis, Adtran, Agilysys, Agito Networks, AirMagnet, Akorri, ALADDIN Knowledge Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, Alert Logic, AlterPoint, Altor Networks, AMAX, AMCC, Amyuni, Apani, APC, APCON, APM Experts, Appistry, Applied Innovations, Apptio, Aquantia, Arastra, Aravo, Arbor Solutions, ArcSight, Areohive Networks, Array Networks, Arrow ECS, ARTEC – Computer, Aruba Networks, Asigra, Asoka USA, Aspera, Astaro Internet Security, Atempo, ATEN Technology, Attune Systems, AutoVirt, Avanade, Avaquest, Avaya, Aventiv-NomaDesk, Avocent, AVTECH, AXIOMTEK, BakBone, BBN Technologies, BDNA, BEA Systems, Bedsole, Benchmark Capital, Berkeley Varitronics, BigFix, Bivio Networks, Blade Network, Blue Lane, BlueArc, BluePoint, BlueStripe, Bobcares, Bosanova, Brigh Technologies, Brocade, CA, CalAmp, Capitial Trust Ventures, Cassatt, Catbird, Cayenne, CDG, Ceedo, Certeon, Champion Solutions, Check Point Software, Chip PC, CiRBA, Citihub, Citrix Systems, ClearCube, CommVault, Compass America, Compellent, Compugen, Computer Lab International, Concentsus, Configuresoft, Continuity Software, Coraid, Courion, Coyote Point Systems, cPanel, Credit Suisse, Crosswalk, CrystalTech Web Hosting, CSC, Data Domain, Databarracks, DataCore, DataDirect, Datagardens, DataPipe, DataSynapse, DC3 Solutions, Dell, EqualLogic, Desktone, Devon IT, Digipede, Doctrino Systems, DocuSign, DoubleTake Software, Dynamic Network Factory, DynamicOps, Ecora Software, eG Innovations, Egenera, Electric Cloud, Electrorack, Embotics, Emulex, Endeavors Technology, Enigmatic, Enomaly, Entuity, EqualLogic, Ericom, EVault, Evolving Solutions, Exinda, eXludus, Extentrix Systems, F5Networks, FalconStor, Faronics, FastScale, FastSoft, FOCUS Consulting, Fortinet, Fortisphere, Fugitive LLC, Fujitsu Systems, Fusepoint, FusionStorm, Gateworks, Getronics, Gibraltar Solutions, GlassHouse Technologies, GlobalFluency, GlobalSCAPE, GlobalSign, Green Hills Software, Grid Dynamics, GRIDtoday, groupSPARK, Hiperware, Hitachi Data Systems, Hubspan, Hurricane Electric, Hyper9, HyPerformix, Hyperic, I2 Technology, IGEL Technology, Ignite Consulting, Illumita, IMEX Research, Incipient, Insight Venture Partners, InstallFree, INSYSTEK,Integrien, Ipswitch, Isilon Systems, iTrinegy, KACE, Kaseya, KI Lipton, Kidaro, Kingston Technology, KnownHost, Lanamark, LeftHand Networks, Lenovo, Leostream, Liquid Computing, Lucid8, LynuxWorks, Magirus, Mailtrust, Mainline, ManageIQ, ManageSoft, Marathon Technologies, Marketo, Markitects, McAfee, Meridian IT, Metron, Microsemi, Microserv, Mid-Atlantic Computers, MIMOS, Mimosa Systems, Mindbridge Software, Miva Merchant, MonoSphere, Morph Labs, Mxi Technologies. mySoftIT, Nagarro, Namescape, Ncomputing, NEC, Nemertes, NeoPath, Neoware, Net Magic, NetApp, Neterion, NetEx, NetIQ, Netuitive, Network Appliance, Neverfail, New Age Technologies, New Idea Engineering, NewTek, Nexenta, NextIO. Nimsoft, Niyuta, NoMachine, Nortel, Novell, Novo Innovations, Old Road Computing, Omnitron, On The Avenue, ONStor, Opalis Software, Open Kernel Labs, OpenHosting, OpenSpan, Optaros, Opus Capital, Oren Tech, PacketTrap, Palm, Inc., Panda Security, Pano Logic, Pattern Insight, Peak IP Solutions, PHD Technologies, Phoenix Technologies, Phurnace Software, Pillar Data Systems, Pinnacle Cart, Pivot3, Platespin, Proofpoint, ProServeIT, ProSync, Provision Networks, , Q1 Labs, QG Software, Qualys, Quest Software, R1Soft, Racemi, RACKWISE, Radiant Logic, Raritan, Raxco Software, Red Hat, Reflex Security, Regan Technologies, Resolution Enterprises, RF Code, Riverbed, RSA Security, Ruckus Wireless, Sagent Solutions, SanDisk, SAVVIS, ScaleMP, Scalent Systems, ScienceLogic, ScriptLogic, Seanodes, Secure Command, Secure Computing, Sentillion, ServInt, Shavlik, Silpion, SIMtone, Singularity Technologies, Sitemasher, SmarterTools, Socialcast, SoftLayer, SolarWinds, SolutionSet, Sonasoft, SSH Communications Security, StackSafe, Starfire, SteelEye Technology, StillSecure, StoneFly, Stonesoft, Stoneware, StorageCraft, StorageNetworking.org, StorMagic, Stratus, Sun Microsystems, SunView, Supermicro,, Surgient, SWsoft, Sycros, Symantec, Systar, Telecompute, The 451 Group, The Israeli Association of Grid Technologies, TheInfoPro, ThinkEquity Partners, ThinPrint, Third Brigade, Tideway, Tigerpaw, TOA Solutions, ToutVirtual, Train Signal, TRANGO Virtual Processors, Tresys Technology, Trigence, Tripwire, Twisted Pair Solutions, UK-2 Limited, Ulteo, UniPrint, United Devices, V.i. Labs, VaST Systems, VDIworks, VeeAm Software, Veodia, Verio, VeriSign, Vicom, Vigilar, VirtenSys, Virtera, Virtual Computer, Virtual Iron, VirtualizationChat.com, VirtualLogix, Virtugo, Virtutech, Visionapp, VisionCore, VKernel, VM People, VM6, VMLogix, vmSight, vThere, Vyatta, Wyse Technology, XDS, XenoCode, Xiotech, xkoto, Xsigo.

AJAX & RIA Technology Contributors of 2009
3Tera, Abaque, Accenture, AccuRev, AccuSoft, Active Endpoints, Active Inquiry, ActiveState, Actuate, Adaptive Blue, Adaptive Path, Adobe Systems, Afrous Dashboard, Agitar Software, AGOSYS, AJAX 13, Akamai, Alfresco, Allurent, Alpha Software, Altova, Amazon.com, Appcelerator, Appeon, Apple Computer, Applibase, , AppTrigger, Apress, Aptana, Aragon Consulting, Art & Logic, Ask Pivot, Asperon, Astreya, Atlassian, Aztecsoft, Azul Systems,, BackBase, Barracuda Networks, Baynote, BEA Systems, Bizwhazee, Black Duck, Blogtronix, BlueFolder, BlueTie, BondDesk, Borland, BOSSdev, Bottomline, BScaler, Bungee Labs, Burton Group, CambrianHouse, Canoo Engineering, Cassatt, Cast Iron, Catalyst Resources, Cenzic, Chordiant, CIGNEX, Cisco Systems, Cision, Citrix Systems, Claria, Clearspring, CodeFlare, Codign, Coghead, Cognizant, ComponentArt, ComponentOne, Conference Guru, Coradiant, Corent Technology, CoreSpeed, Corizon, Crescendo Networks, CSS Group, cStar Technologies, CSW Group, Curl, Cybage, Cynergy Systems, Dapper, Dassault Systèmes, DataDirect, Day Software, dCongo, deCarta, Dell, Denim Group, Denodo, Design Universe, DeviceAnywhere, Dialcom, Dice.com, DiscountASP.NET, DotNetNuke, Drangonfly, DreamFace Interactive, Dynamic Toolbar, DynaTrace, EffectiveUI, Egnyte, Ektron, Elastic Path, Elementool, EMC, Encanvas, ENOVIA Matrix One, EnterpriseDB, Ephox, esnips, ESRI, Etelos Systems, etouch, Evans Data, Exadel, ezAJAX, F5 Networks, FeedbackFX, Fig Leaf Software, Finetooth, Fiorano Software, firstRain, FiveRuns, Foldera, Force10 Networks, Fortify, Forum Systems, Fotango, Freewebs, froglogic, Funambol, FundingPost, Furtherahead.com, Fusion Technologies, Gaggle.Net, GemStone, genius.com, Genuitec, Gizmox, Glassbox, GoGrid, Gomez, Inc., GreenHat, GreenPoint, GridApp Systems, Groupware Technology, Helmi Technologies, Hitachi America, Hosting.com, HostMySite.com, HP Software, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Ibiza Software, IBM, ICEsoft, ILOG, Impetus, iNetOffice, Infinilogic, Infragistics, Ingres, Inimit, Innominds, Innoopract, inpowr, InsideView, Instancy, Instantiations, Integration New Media, Intel, IntelliObjects, Intelliun, Interactive Networks, InterSystems, Isomorphic, IT Mill, ITtoolbox, JackBE, JadeLiquid, JasperSoft, Javeline, JBoss, JellyCloud, JetBrains, Jive Software, K2, Kaazing, Kapow, Keynote Systems, KonoLive, Krugle, Laszlo Systems, Lightstreamer, M/Gateway, Magic Software, Mainsoft, Manning Publications, Marathon Technologies, Mashery, Mashmatrix, MaxiScale, MB Technologies, Metia Software, Microsoft, Midnight Coders, Molecular, MomentumSI, Morfik, Neocleus, Neotys, Netfective, Netmite, NetSuite, Nexaweb, Nextapp, NextAxiom, NextDB.net, Nirvanix, Nitobi, Northwoods Software, Novell, Novulo, OASIS, ObjectWave, OpenLink, OpenLogic, OpenSpot, OpenWave, OPNET, OpSource, Oracle, OrangeHRM, OSS Nokalva, Parasoft, Passport Corporation, Pentaho, Perforce, Pervasive Software, Primavera Systems, PushToTest, QLogic, Quasar Technologies, Quest Software, Rackable Systems, Radialpoint, RadView Software, Rearden Commerce, Recursion Software, Red Hat, Roaring Penguin, Salesforce.com, SAP, Saven Technologies, Scalix, Servoy, SkillBuilders, Skyway, SL Corporation, SlickEdit, SnapLogic, SOA Software, Software AG, Software FX, Sonic Software, SoonR, Splunk, SugarCRM, Sun Microsystems, Sybase, iAnywhere Solutions, Symphoniq, TeaLeaf Technology, Tele Atlas, telerik, ThinkFree, TIBCO Software, TriveraTechnologies, Valtech, Visual Mining, VMware, Vocus, WatchFire, WaveMaker, Web Spiders, WebAppCabaret, Webtide, Wipro, WSO2, XAware, Xenos, Xythos Software, Yahoo!, Zapatec, ZCubes, Zimbra, ZOHO, and Zoovy.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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