Virtualization software to crush server market
Or maybe not
Analysis Virtualization software will apparently cripple the low-end server market.
Analysts and executives came out this week and declared that x86 server shipments will likely decline as VMware, Microsoft and a host of start-ups push their virtualization wares at speed. This thesis du jour centers on the notion that customers will buy fewer low-end systems, since they'll be running more software per box thanks to virtualization technology.
While this may feel like an obvious transition, most server and chip vendors have been arguing against the slowdown idea over the past couple of years. Even when blessed with cost or space saving tools, computer users tend to keep right on buying more gear and just use technology advances to cram greater horsepower in the same space. Now you're being told that virtualization technology will buck this trend.
For example, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz blamed virtualization technology for Sun's declining server revenue, during a call yesterday with financial analysts to discuss Sun's fourth quarter results. Schwartz told the analysts that virtualizaton in the near-term appears to have a "depressing" effect on units.
Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., has chipped in on the gloom and doom scenario as well in a new research report.
"As the use of server virtualization rises, a negative impact on x86 server demand appears all but inevitable," he wrote. "While we still forecast positive x86 server unit growth in 2007 and 2008, our forecast calls for shipments to contract in 2009 and for growth to be about zero between 2007 and 2012, compared with historical double-digit gains."
In a rare feat, Schwartz and Sacconaghi also happen to agree about another trend that virtualization will drive. They're claiming that customers will buy larger, more memory- and component-packed servers moving forward to handle the demanding virtualization code. Why consolidate a couple of workloads on a two-socket box when you can consolidate more software on a four- or eight-socket system and deal with less hardware management overhead?
According to Sacconaghi, the trend toward larger systems will hurt Dell, since it has specialized in two-socket gear. It will, however, also hurt Sun, since x86 virtualization will only speed the move away from Unix systems.
Schwartz disagreed here - you're shocked, we know - arguing that Sun's larger system expertise will help it benefit from the virtualization charge. Sun can sell you larger x86 boxes, and it can offer Solaris Containers - arguably a cheaper and more efficient form of virtualization than VMware - on either Unix or x86 kit. In addition, customers doing the virtualization thing tend to "buy more integrated racks rather than piecemeal components," according to Schwartz, which signals higher margin deals for Sun.
Our take on the overall server market tends to overlap liberally with the views held by Schwartz and Sacconaghi. But we're seeing things differently this time around.
I'll caveat this by saying that I work for VMware. The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the opinions of VMware.
I find the comments and the article rather amuzing. People talking about how all of their apps are multi-threaded and so they should run on physical rather than virtual machines. Really? I would like to meet you. Most of the apps running in datacenters (large and small) are single-threaded. Writing a multi-threaded app is rather difficult and something not taught until you get towards the latter part of your masters or PHd in computer science. Take a look back at your x86 apps in your datacenter (not the stuff running on Solaris on SPARC or your P or Z series) but the actual x86 stuff. How much of it is truly multi-threaded. For the stuff that is does it actually scale linearly? Most don't. And for that matter almost all of the virtualization solutions for x86 today have SMP support for the virtual machines.
Notice I also talk about x86. That's the market this article is talking about. For those of you talking about running everything in LPARs on the mainframe or in Solaris containers - great - if your apps will actually run there. Again, in an x86 dominated datacenter space you're going to have a tough time getting your apps to run on the mainframe or actually be supported there.
Then there's the talk about how everything should just run in chroot or some other esoteric Linux solution. If you're a 100% Linux shop that just may work for you. What about all of your Windows stuff or your NetWare stuff? You may laugh but that's still running in your datacenter. And if chroot and containers and other Linux solutions that have been around for a long time were really that great and could be operationalized then why haven't you been running your datacenter like that already? Hmmm....
My last comment is for the performance junkies. You know who you are. The people that say virtualization provides too much overhead or stacking 10 apps on a single server makes things run 10 times as slow. I've done countless performance collections (well over 2,000) on datacenters around the world and the results are almost identical. over 90% of the x86 apps in the datacenter run under 10% utilization. So why do you care if the virtualization solution runs at 90 or even 80% of native when your app only runs at 10% of native. Perhaps we need to do better at teaching math in the schools. And this only gets worse as you start adding more cores and processing power to servers. Your apps use even less.
The biggest thing holding more effecient datacenters back these days are ignorant posts like the ones found here. Virtualization has been around for over 30 years thanks to IBM. It's not something new to be afraid of. We're simply taking tried and true solutions to the x86 space. Start educating yourselves and think about what you write before you post.
Virtualization for easy of management rather than consolidation
A recent Slashdot post covered an article at Interop News by Jeff Gould called "On the rPath to virtual containerization" . Gould argues that virtualisation's the ease of deployment, migration, backup, etc. will actually *increase* the demand for server hardware over the long term. He offers Intel's recent investment in VMware as support for this view. He then goes on to discuss rPath, which allows ISVs to build full-stack software appliances, all the way done to the OS. rPath uses a trimmed down Linux (as small as 50 MB), significantly reducing the attack surface of the final product as well as the maintenance overhead. rPath is run by Billy Marshall, with RPM author Erik Troan as CTO; both ex-Red Hatters.
Whether virtualization can actually increase the demand for servers or not, I agree with Ashlee that the demand for servers will not go down. I think the consolidation-by-virtualization trend is having a short-term impact on sales, but that will only last as long as there is inefficiency in the data centre to exploit. After that, unless the overall demand for more computing power is stopped -- and I can't see why it would -- server sales are sure to pick up again.
Fazal - The only people that talk about DLL Hell are the ones that haven't learned anything about Windows since some time mid last decade. Multiple apps on one Windows box might be unstable (I've not had stability problems on Windows since 2000sp3 - I've pulled 3+ month uptimes on my desktop machine running 2003, interrupted by power outages and driver updates) but more than one application running at a time doesn't really affect the DLLs. They really haven't been a problem since MS moved off the 9x kernel.
While Zones and VMWare do sort of similar things, what I've read of the two leads me to believe that they aren't really worth comparing - sort of an apples and martians situation. Plus, who wants to use Solaris? I've never sworn at an OS so hard in my life - and I have to use OS X on a daily basis.