Sunday, December 25, 2011

What's driving Virtualization and cloud computing

Every now and then people ask me this question: What's driving Virtualization and cloud computing?

As I have answered this question repeatedly over time, the answer to this question has been changing to accommodate the different reasons and value propositions for virtualization and cloud computing.

The first answer - which was valid four years ago was: Cost saving. The cost saving due to virtualization was a sufficient enough reason to virtualize the IT infrastructure.

Cloud technology was primarily limited to SaaS applications and the value of cloud was mostly in the ease of use, and pay for what you use.

The second answer was GreenIT. A virtualised IT infrastructure resulted in server consolidation and that lowered the power bill. Having all the applications running in a centralized data center lowers the cost while increasing the reliability, thus cloud computing was becoming cheaper than a hosted solution.

As time progressed technology became more affordable and cell phones became smarter. People could now access Internet from their cell phones. This created a need for cloud computing, SaaS applications could now be accessed from anywhere over plethora of mobile devices. That was my third answer. Mobile computing, anywhere, anytime, any device.

As year 2011 ends, I find two more reasons for virtualization & cloud computing.

1. Enormous compute power
2. Intelligent and easy to use mobile compute devices

When I look around my house, I notice that I have enough computer power in my house to meet the elearning needs of 30-50 school kids, but I am barely using a fraction of the installed capacity. The compute power in my quad core desktop, dual core laptops are all wasted. Looking at things in a slightly different perspective, I find that my iPad meets all my computing needs.

In last three years, Intel & AMD has released more powerful CPU's. The 8 core, the 12 core CPU's of today are way too powerful for any individual user. The desktop software applications do not need that amount of compute power. So, in other words, I can do away with all the laptops, desktops and replace them with a simple Tablet computer.

This powerful computers are best utilized when they are virtualized, allowing multiple software to run simultaneously - thus consuming all that enormous compute power. The best way to do that is to have these powerful computers run cloud applications in a virtualized environment, while the end users can use simple & easy to use end devices to access the cloud.

Over last four years, the smart phones have evolved enormously. The initial qwerty keyboard based phones with tiny screens have given way to larger multi-touch screens. The phones today can take voice commands or one can even write using a stylus. The phones can serve as a projector, record videos, edit pictures and even edit videos. This rapid improvement in phone capability has essentially made them the primary computing devices for many people.

In near future, we will see mobile devices that can project a large image on the walls, have 3D videos as well.

Tablet computers & netbooks now have the right form factor and compute power to replace laptops - when used with Web applications. Virtual desktops and with DaaS, users can still have the look/feel of a desktop and security/reliability of the cloud in their mobile devices.

Having access to a virtual computer with unlimited capabilities is a very powerful reason for users to opt for cloud computing.

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