Virtualization-oriented architecture takes SOA to the next level

VOA builds on a combination of system, storage, and infrastructure virtualization

It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in virtualizing everything from systems and storage to those infrastructure elements, such LAN segments, that can be abstracted. Zero reality is my mantra.

Robust storage virtualization is an approachable, and I’d argue essential, goal today. Infrastructure virtualization -- such as a LAN that remakes itself without the need to pull wires, or power and cooling routing that focuses on need -- is realistically a next-horizon task. If we work together to put virtualized storage and infrastructure in sync with the trajectory of virtual systems, we’ll witness the birth of VOA (virtualization-oriented architecture) and the dying of reality as IT knows and despises it.

VOA calls to mind the use of virtualization to make SOAs (service-oriented architectures) more durable, mobile, and versatile. I hesitate to plot that as the first stop along VOA’s longer path, because I can see SOA and virtualization -- brilliant, simple technologies -- pairing to devolve into an enterprise Frankenstein of ultimately unmanageable complexity.

SOA and virtualization do, however, hold much promise if reducing complexity endures as the primary purpose. Eschew complexity in all technology at all costs because it is the heaviest of all elements. You can’t put enough on the other side of the scales to balance it out.

I coined the phrase VOA to describe an approach to finer-grained system virtualization that builds on a transparently integrated combination of system, storage, and infrastructure virtualization that doesn’t abstract reality. Abstraction breeds complexity. VOA just blows reality away.

My overarching concept of VOA employs virtualized resources to turn ever more fine-grained requests into jump balls. The key to my concept is that no special effort or knowledge is required by architects, developers, or IT. In a safe, transitional stage that bridges SOA to VOA, virtual systems will fire up, suspend, and relocate to ensure that service requests get the fastest possible response. The first cut of VOA will reduce SOA complexity and lead time by simplifying deployment and operations architecture processes. Systems and storage become a cloud on the design diagram, and a single SOA rollout doesn’t have a discrete bill of materials.

When I look two horizons ahead, I see my true vision of VOA. Reducing the pain of up-front architecture and design effort will give way to the safe abandonment of, not abstraction of, awareness of physical reality for everyone from development to operations. VOA’s units of work and run-time allocated resources are familiar and natural, computer science 101, and they don’t require extension to development tools, APIs, or management tools. Except for those times with the Check Engine light comes on, no human needs to be aware of the physical location of processes, TCP/IP connections, allocated memory, storage, anything.

My concept of VOA is far more detailed, and there are lots of steps along the path where preparations are made and intermediate rewards reaped. My concept relies on the evolution toward the ideal state of point-to-point high-speed networking, memory speed and density, safe shared access to a single storage volume, and other factors. All the required ingredients already exist as discrete or primitive technologies. It just takes vision -- far more than my own. In fact, vision would be a reasonable alternate for the V in VOA.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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