What virtualization will cost you today (and tomorrow)

Virtualization has become this year’s green IT.

As VMworld kicks off in Las Vegas this week, I find myself so sick to death of hearing about technology that allows multiple instances of software to run on a single machine that I almost can’t bear to pay attention to it. This morning alone VMware unleashed nearly a dozen announcements. Last week, perhaps sensing they would be ignored otherwise, many of VMware’s rivals unleashed a torrent of their own products and services, particularly Microsoft with Hyper-V. Other OEMs, from EMC to Dell, are scrambling to get in on the act as well. If it’s too much for my attention span, I can’t imagine how much of it the average IT manager is taking in.

A few reminders:

1. Not all, or even most, enterprises have reached the point where their data centres can no longer contain their physical infrastructure.
2. Success virtualization requires a skill set in IT demand forecasting that is by no means innate among many technology professionals.
3. Offering a blade server or SAN equipment is not in itself a virtualization offering, though it may be used with one.
4. Virtualization does not automatically ensure your IT operations have gone “green.”
5. Pricing for this stuff is kinda wonky.

That last one is the killer. A while back I was talking with Peter Richardson, who works in the office of the CTO at CA, and he said increased licensing costs are a major risk around this technology.

“We haven’t addressed yet in the industry the notion there should be a different pricing or licensing models for the software in the virtual environment.”

He raised the idea of measured workload pricing: charging for virtual machines based on how long they had been up.

“If you had that pricing model, you would see server spawl go down drastically,” he said. “Line of business managers would be able to justify a cost associated with this. They didn’t just pay for capacity. Now they’re paying as they go along because they’re added more servers to the machine. You’ll start seeing people looking at it and realize they’re on a usage-based pricing model and getting charged for 50 machines.”

It also gets trickier as the hardware changes. Effective today, VMware’s pricing model has updated the definition of a Processor to mean a single, physical chip that houses no more than six processor cores.”

This issue – more than the new CEO, more than whatever other products are coming out of the company – should dominate the discussion at this year’s VMworld.

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