Baked-in virtualization may heat up the market

For the IT staff at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., the focus for the last couple of years has been on consolidation. The first goal was to centralize servers that had been scattered across the campus into two physical locations, and the next step was to use virtualization technologies to consolidate things even more.

“Real estate is very tough to come by on our campus,” says Rich Siedzik, director of computer and telecommunications services at the 3,600-student school. “So we’re trying to consolidate and collapse things now into one physical location. We’re trying to put them into a much smaller footprint.”

To do that, the school is standardizing on IBM BladeCenter servers — running IBM Power and Intel Xeon processors — and taking advantage of virtualization technologies. While IBM Power has virtualization capabilities built in, Bryant University is one of a growing number of organizations using VMware — or other third-party software — to virtualize x86-based systems.

VMware created the market for x86 virtualization in 2001, but industry experts predict 2006 is the year when the technology will finally take off. For one thing, Intel and AMD are starting to roll out chips with virtualization capabilities baked in.

Silicon-supported virtualization will make software from VMware, Microsoft and others run better and let those vendors focus on higher-level management tools. It also will lay the foundation for virtualization tools from others. For example, the open source Xen virtualization technology will support Linux and Windows when it runs on virtualization-enabled processors.

Relegated primarily to test and development environments as recently as last year, virtualization technology continues to advance into production areas. At Temple University in Philadelphia, Tim O’Rourke, vice-president of computer and information services, and Frank Azuola, assistant vice-president of computer services, are trying to simplify their infrastructure, which now includes some 300 servers.

“During the past 10 years we have experienced a lot of ad hoc growth. We are now restructuring our server environment to help us have a better grip on future growth,” Azuola says. “We are now thinking more about integration and simplification than we ever have before.”

In the past, Temple typically dedicated one physical server to each application or user group. Today the school looks to run multiple applications on single physical systems. “We are…looking more into server virtualization, which we feel will allow us to operate more efficiently….” Azuola says.

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