End-times for server virtualization?

Reading the tea leaves at VMware tell us what we already know: Virtualization will soon be engineered out of the cloud

Simeon Simeonov recently posted an intriguing article on the use of virtualization in cloud computing. In it, he describes how cloud computing will soon move beyond server virtualization:

Server virtualization created cloud computing. Without the ability to run multiple logical server instances on a single physical server, the cloud computing economics we know today wouldn't be possible. Most assume that server virtualization as we know it today is a fundamental enabler of the cloud, but it is only a crutch we need until cloud-based application platforms mature to the point where applications are built and deployed without any reference to current notions of servers and operating systems.

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Those who think the simple act of leveraging virtualization constitutes cloud computing are missing a significant point. In fact, virtualization is an inefficient way of managing cloud infrastructure; as IT becomes more adept at cloud architecture and the underlying technology further advances, you'll see less and less virtualization used in cloud computing.

VMware sees this, Simeonov notes, pointing out that the virtualization leader's CEO, Paul Maritz "has positioned the company to cannibalize its own server virtualization business with a move toward platform-as-a-service computing."

The upshot is that developers working with current platform-as-a-service providers never have to consider virtual or physical servers. This puts virtualization, and the technology that makes it possible, in the backseat.

Overhead is accelerating this decoupling of virtualization and the cloud. As Simeonov's article notes, testing proves that server virtualization generates overhead in the 8 to 12 percent range. Moreover, if virtual servers are not configured properly -- and most are not -- they begin to compete for the same hardware resources, so overhead is that much more of an issue.

That said, I don't see cloud-based IT moving away from virtualization anytime soon. Whether it's a private or public cloud, we're too dependent on virtualization to turn our back on it in the near future. At some point, however, performance will be the precursor to a seachange, and virtualization will give way to new models of efficiency in cloud computing.

This article, "End-times for server virtualization?," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.