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The Cloud is Becoming Real and the Giants are Moving In

Virtualized Worlds: A Technology Reality

Virtualized application scenarios scored high on the topical news indicator at the recent Parallels Summit 2009 in Las Vegas, but with all the ‘big picture' talk of hosted services and optimization, they may not have gained quite as much attention as they perhaps deserve.

Parallels calls this application delivery environment Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) - and it is argued to be a more cost effective approach to the traditional PC or thin client desktop computing models. With VDI, end-users will see and interact with exactly the same operating system and applications they're used to on their traditional desktop. However, the operating system and applications are now hosted on a central server.

Parallels highlights the fact that that this application server itself is then virtualized and so must reasonably be open to optimisation and consolidation efficiencies. The company says that typically, organisations can get up to 150 virtual desktops on a typical dual CPU Quad Core server with 32GB RAM.

VDI can then remove the pain of maintaining and managing traditional desktop systems. Applications and patches can be rolled out more efficiently and there is greater control of what is downloaded into the IT environment. For businesses this means PC management becomes easier and the cost of desktop computing generally can potentially be reduced. Companies can also take advantage of data center licensing due to the high number of desktops that can be hosted on one physical server.

Gartner Inc. recently stated that, "The effective use of virtualization can reduce server energy consumption by up to 82 per cent and floor space by 85 per cent." (Gartner: "Energy Savings via Virtualization: Green IT on a Budget"; Nov. 12, 2008).

During this Parallels Summit 2009, CEO Sergei Beloussov used his keynote platform to suggest that virtualization is rapidly becoming a mainstream element of the IT stack in large-scale corporates and, perhaps most crucially of all, SMBs of comparatively modest size in some cases.

"Virtualisation is very much a computing reality now. It is actually becoming harder to get truly new customers," said Beloussov - suggesting that there is a need for differentiation in this space before adding, "Most SMBs do not need grid!" Addressing an audience of software developers, SaaS specialists and service providers, Beloussov described a five-tier structure within the cloud computing market (as he sees it) in the following way: 

  • Cloud Type 1: The Google cloud. Truly massive, huge data centers, heavily hardware dependent, unmatched in many senses.
  • Cloud Type 2: The Microsoft cloud. Also massive, less hardware dependent, more user-fueled at its heart.
  • Cloud Type 3: Other super-size large clouds, among the largest being IBM and Apple, but also including EMC, HP, Amazon, Facebook, Adobe etc.
  • Cloud Type 4: Channel clouds of service providers, telcos, ISPs, SaaS ISV, web hosters etc
  • Cloud Type 5: In-house clouds of large companies, serving subsidiaries, departments, affiliates and sometimes employees and partners.

Parallels says that IT engineers using cloud computing resources will demand greater service and flexibility. According to Parallels, customers will want cloud resources that support: business class email, office applications (or virtual desktop environments) and line of business applications - and they will want these to be differentiated from one vendor to another (so they can pick and choose) and be flexible for different customer workloads.

Parallels pulled in a record tally of partners and sponsors for this event. One particularly vocal team were the guys from FuseMail, a dedicated email hosting provider offering both business and private-label solutions. "We provide a low cost alternative to expensive in-house email solutions or hosted Microsoft Exchange and have multiple datacenters so that customers can keep their data geographically close to them, allowing for faster connections. Features include an industry leading desktop-like webmail client that is innovative and easy to use, strong anti-spam protection as well as compatibility to sync with Outlook and over 1000 mobile devices," said Henry Weber, VP Operations, FuseMail, LLC.

Parallels' products themselves help the automation process needed to make the commercial front end of virtualised service provision viable. "Don't develop a billing system for this proving hosting technology, just use ours and concentrate on increasing your average revenue per customer," the company says. Indeed, one of the session tracks was entitled, "Build vs. Buy."

"The cloud is becoming real and the giants are moving in," said Beloussov. "Bringing the cloud down to Earth now, but making sure that we do not create a fog when we do this, is the way to go. Do not get carried away with over-hyped grids and do not try and copy the giants, instead use the cloud to provide technology that is appropriate to you and your company's needs," he added.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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