Gerry Boyce is the chief technology officer with EMC in Cork.
How well established is virtualisation in the Irish market?
People are still missing a trick. Last year, 9pc of servers in Ireland were virtualised, although this number has just about doubled as we speak, so there’s still a long way to go. The Nordic and UK markets are far in advance of that. In a European context, we’d be slightly behind. Those are VMware’s own numbers. The good news is, it’s doubled in nine months or a year. What we’re seeing is, more and more servers being bought are virtualised. Many companies are taking a virtualise-first policy.
Do you see virtualisation as a bridging technology – a step on the way to cloud computing?
In our view, virtualisation is the glue that really brings it together. Whereas a year ago customers were asking about virtualisation, now they are asking to talk about the cloud. A cloud-based service allows infrastructure as a service – basically IT as a service.
Are there any obstacles: surely not all systems can be virtualised?
There are small technical issues; you might have a physical device like a dongle that needs to be attached to a particular system. Two or three years ago some application vendors said they wouldn’t support their applications in a virtualised environment but customers said "fine, we’ll change our software vendor". The market demands what it needs.
Doesn’t decoupling software from hardware cause potential problems for applications with processor-based licensing contracts?
The cloud idea is that you scale up and you scale down. You’ll see new licensing models where you can buy licences that can scale up and scale down. There is an issue but I think it will disappear very quickly, again, because customers are demanding that.
Does virtualisation make security easier or more difficult?
You can build a virtualised, internal cloud in your own data centre and you can trust it because it’s within your four walls. The first step to any journey to a cloud-based service is to do it yourself. You then have a choice to make to allow parts of your service or infrastructure to be provided by a third party and in that case security becomes more important.
RSA and VMware are collaborating on building security into the architecture. For example, you have data leak prevention software integrated into VMware Vshield zones. At the information layer you can prevent data such as credit card numbers from being moved to a zone you don’t want. That’s in general release and is available today.
Our message to the marketplace is, build your internal cloud and that gives you the flexibility and choice to decide.
You can change your cost and purchasing model. The question for people now is, why wouldn’t you do that?
The security concerns are being addressed; this is being built in to the architecture as opposed to coming along and bolting security on afterwards. The stage we’re at now is, people are asking ‘how do I do it?’
How do you see the year ahead for virtualisation?
Any new servers bought now are virtualised. Some people have grasped the nettle because the business benefits are compelling and they stack up. Others have taken a different view and obviously see a natural phase out of the physical hardware first. In nine months or so, to double the amount of virtualised servers is a good number, and I can only see that growing.
We’re starting to hear more about desktop virtualisation and not just server virtualisation. How is that trend developing?
A lot of VMware projects this year have a desktop aspect to them. Again, a lot of customers are asking and it’s a case of "why not"? You have benefits from a green perspective and from a cost-saving perspective.
Our Cork facility supports every EMC location outside North America and that involves managing around 20,000 desktops. We’re rolling that out as we speak. I think it’s the last time the company will provide us with laptops. From now on, we will be given an allowance and the company will provide us with access to our applications, with all of the security built into it.
What’s driving that trend?
People want to use devices other than PCs. For instance, we don’t have a Mac policy but we’ve got 3,000 Macs anyway. Then you’ve got iPhones and all the other smartphones. Virtualisation is helping this to happen. It’s not IT departments that are demanding that, it’s the consumers and users, and the way the IT departments are going to provide that is a cloud-based desktop where people can get their apps on any device they want to use.
What are some of the advantages of that?
It will enable continuous backups and obviously it deals with problems like lost laptops or hard disk crashes. In effect, it adds that extra layer of security. Information is backed up centrally. A lot of companies never even consider PC backup in the first place, or people have to remember to do it. Now all of these things are taken care of for the user.
What other developments can we expect?
Another thing that’s going to accelerate [adoption] is the Virtual Computing Environment, a coalition between VMware, Cisco and EMC – a lot of people think that’s what the acronym VCE stands for but it doesn’t. It was announced in November and it’s bringing a joint offering to the marketplace to help accelerate the journey to the cloud. It combines the network, the ‘glue’ and the cloud operating system. That is based on a shared vision of the private cloud. Organisations won’t need to rewrite their applications and give them to a provider. We spent more than $400m aligning our technology, reference architecture and blueprints for solutions. It will work with existing applications on Oracle or SAP, it has integrated systems management and it includes APIs for third-party management tools. If you think about a virtualisation project, it has 20 steps; this would remove 15 of them. Effectively, you can buy these architectures called Vblocks, plug them in to your network and power and put your applications in them. We’ve sold this to four customers in Ireland already and we have another six prospects.