Seven of the biggest server virtualization news stories in 2012

Drama, intrigue, fighting, change, technology advancement, and acquisitions abounded throughout the year

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3. Security alert: VMware ESX source code leaks

One of the more interesting stories in 2012 had to do with security. What gave this story a little more bite, beyond the normal security concerns that administrators deal with on a day-to-day basis, was the fact that it centered on a VMware ESX source code leak. Previously, VMware had been fortunate enough to remain below the radar from a security standpoint and hasn't had to deal with numerous hacks such as those that have plagued Microsoft on the operating system side (read: Patch Tuesday). The company has been lucky, considering the hypervisor platform could be considered a high-dollar target based on its importance and level of control in a virtual data center environment.

When news of the leak broke, VMware sources were quick to point out that the ESX source code leaked by hackers was fairly dated, with code going back to the 2003-2004 timeframe. But since VMware's ESX source code is closed, we don't know what or how much has changed with newer versions, and we don't know if any security holes can be found with this "older" version of the code that could affect newer installations. We did see VMware move quickly to address security concerns, and it offered security patches that everyone should implement.

If nothing else, the event was a wakeup call to server virtualization administrators to make sure they remember to patch and update their virtual environments. These things aren't secure by nature just because they virtualize and isolate machines from one another. The message: Be aware of vulnerabilities and stay on top of developments.

4. The importance of cross-platform management is realized

When the hypervisor arguably became more of a commoditized entity, thanks to competing platforms from Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Oracle reaching feature and function parity with VMware's ESX technology, the next logical step was to focus on virtualization management. Virtualization management was already a hot topic, but in 2012 it played an even larger role and was a more critical component in the virtual data center.

As hypervisor platforms improved, more and more virtual data centers moved into a heterogeneous environment. VMware vSphere still dominated the production side of the data center, but companies began experimenting with other hypervisor technologies for non-mission-critical servers. For that reason, heterogeneous or cross-platform management became more necessary in 2012.

To help compete with VMware, Microsoft started adding support for VMware vSphere environments within its System Center management software. This allowed a System Center user to manage both vSphere and Hyper-V from the same console.

Third-party virtualization management companies like Quest, SolarWinds, Veeam, and VKernel -- all part of the VMware ecosystem -- took hypervisor heterogeneity support and ran with it as another way to compete and differentiate their products from those of partner VMware.

In April a startup named HotLink emerged with its own method of managing a heterogeneous hypervisor environment. Because most virtualization shops were VMware customers and already familiar with VMware vCenter, Hotlink decided on a different approach from other server virtualization management vendors. Instead of creating its own management console to compete with Center, HotLink instead created a transformation engine that abstracts and decouples the virtual infrastructure metadata from the virtualization management layer to enable native interoperability of hypervisors. Translating operational hypervisor system commands into a common form understood by other hypervisors makes it possible for administrators to manage Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Red Hat KVM from within VMware vCenter.

VMware held out as long as it could, but in October, the virtualization giant had to admit that supporting other platforms would be a requirement going forward for virtual data center administrators.

5. Wave good-bye to the VMware vRAM vTax

After what may be considered a failed, year-long licensing experiment with the introduction of vSphere 5.0, EMC VMware finally threw in the towel in August. It bid adieu to VMware's unloved vSphere vRAM licensing change and returned to its previous licensing model.

Known in the industry as the vRAM vTax, VMware's new vRAM licensing scheme took into account both the number of physical processors on the host server and the amount of vRAM allocated and used by the virtual machines on that same host, pushing up prices and reducing IT's deployment flexibility. Hindsight has proven that instituting this pricing change alongside the launch of a new major version of vSphere was not the wisest decision. There was end-user confusion over pricing, and amid the loud and public jeers the positive message about features and functionality added into vSphere 5.0 was lost. Yes, Microsoft quickly took to the airwaves to help fan the fear and uncertainty.

VMware partners, customers, and industry pundits alike applauded VMware's shift away from the vRAM licensing change in 2012.

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