Virtualisation is the vital weapon in any CIO’s armoury and it is also enabling young entrepreneurs to test and roll out apps faster than before, says VMware Ireland country manager Ian Moore.
As server computing morphed into cloud computing and an increasing reliance on remote data centres to host public and hybrid clouds, none of it would have been possible without virtualisation and the ability to deploy countless virtual computers on one server.
VMware has blazed the path of virtualisation, which is very much a product of the last 16 years. Two years ago, the company announced a 250-job expansion in Cork, where it has three major facilities, and it now employs more than 700 people in the city.
VMware has been the first company to successfully virtualise the x86 architecture and it brings in revenues in excess of US$5bn.
EMC acquired VMware in 2007.
Momentum in the virtualisation market
While VMware has two close competitors – Citrix and Microsoft – the company continues to blaze a trail and is looking beyond the hypervisor and increasingly towards total infrastructure agility in terms of software-defined networks and storage.
“Much of the momentum we see in the marketplace at present is very much around business agility,” said Moore.
“If you look at what IT is about in essence, if I need an application I deploy it, it generates data and we analyse that data and if we look at that some organisations today can take three years to do that and some five years.
“But if you look at best of breed in terms of the top tier of tech – Google, Facebook, Netflix – they are doing that by the hour.
“Technology around virtualisation is speeding up, depending how fast any business can go around that circle.”
Another force in the market, Moore said, is scale. “Scale is relative to whether you are a one-man band in IT or you are a 100-strong IT department, but the number of entities that somebody’s got to manage is just exploding time after time.
“Technology is fundamentally helping us to achieve scale in no time. Think about when we started with the hypervisor in 2002 that was a no-brainer because am I going to buy 10 servers or virtualise it and put it on one. And that has grown to the scale today where people are pushing that up to 80 virtual machines (VMs) per physical host depending on the type of virtual machine.”
That said, Moore pointed out many CIOs and IT managers are still gingerly testing the firepower at their disposal and most data centres are actually under-provisioned.
“It is a bit like giving a car owner a fuel gauge for the first time and they suddenly realise they have the room to add 20 or 30 more VMs on each host. Many are conservative and push to 10 more because they still don’t believe it.”
More horsepower on the tin
The key evolution, Moore said, has been processing power. Initially, server manufacturers and chipmakers like Intel would have been wary about the virtualisation trend because one implication would be that CIOs would buy fewer devices.
“But that certainly hasn’t been the case. Intel now has chips designed specifically for virtualisation and it is a case of more horsepower on the tin because now you can utilise all the power of the processor compared with 2005 or 2006, where the average app was using 6pc of the total processing power in a host server.”
Moore said VMware is now taking the same approach with virtualistion of compute power to storage and networking.
“The key is to enable people to deploy technology faster with fewer resources.
“If you think about it today, if a CMO of any organisation decides we are going to run a web and mobile campaign with a lot of work to be done with the IT department and the app developers to meet that deadline, the automation and the management of that workload is absolutely critical.
“If you look at Michael O’Leary’s statement in the media that ‘Ryanair is now a technology company with an airline attached’ that’s ultimately where it has got to go. If you think about how busy everybody’s lives are and certainly using a mobile app for a boarding pass has removed the hassle of printing – now that Ryanair are doing that it is certainly going to help people considering they were going to charge you in the recent past for failing to print out a boarding pass.
“As soon as a company, regardless of the area of business it is in, begins writing custom applications or is outsourcing and trying to keep control, it will get into a situation where if it wants to test its apps it requires additional resources in today’s IT world.
“This is where they can use an on-premise data centre or use a hybrid cloud or public cloud – if you’ve got the app out there and you’re doing four times a year release cycles and you want to test it and you need 400 VMs per instance, that’s a lot of capital outlay to build into data centres.
“We are seeing people use the flexibility of the public cloud for hybrid cloud specifically around development tasks and workload.
“We have one customer who, if they are releasing a new game to market, they will push it out first on a public cloud platform so that effectively people can go crazy, it goes through the hype cycle and they certainly couldn’t match capacity in their own data centre but once it right sizes itself they take it back in-house because they know what the size of the game is.”
VMware in Ireland
Cork, where VMware keeps its European headquarters, contains the third largest concentration of VMware employees outside of Palo Alto, California.
“We have 700 people and it is growing every day in terms of the number of people we are taking on in different roles, different responsibilities,” Moore said.
“In the last 12 months, we launched the VMware Hybrid Cloud service and that would have taken more people on for both partner channel roles both inside sales and people running that entire programme and supporting that.
“In Cork, we have a whole global support team because we do a whole ‘follow the sun’ support model – taking in Ireland, India and the US. There is a huge organisation in Cork to support all customers, whether on-premise VMs or in the hybrid cloud, it is the same team that supports our customer.
“We recently had a visit by (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny to celebrate the work we’ve done with Job Bridge. We’ve taken project managers who would have come from the construction industry and taken them in one end and through ‘what is IT’ to the other side where they are now project managing IT projects. Or we have taken people on who never knew too much about IT but might have had a passing interest but have now have a passion and capacity to do the job and who now are learning to be support analysts. There’s quite a bit going on.”
The agile economy
In keeping with the agility focus, Moore said the focus has moved beyond the hypervisor to conversations around infrastructure and automation.
“Instead of spending loads of time designing and rolling out infrastructure, the focus is on getting to the point of automation as quickly as possible. One customer took just two weeks to design and set up infrastructure and one additional week to automate it and from that point on it was just a push of a button, no manual intervention or setting up a 600 VM application stack.”
Moore said businesses today have a choice to either look at IT as part of the office furniture or position it firmly behind the business. “IT is about enabling a business to be responsive to new ideas and leading the business in new directions.
“That’s the way that entrepreneurs coming out of college or school look at IT.
“And with that infusion of young people coming into organisations we are seeing phenomenal smart ideas take shape in record time.”