The use of virtualization and cloud computing is growing quickly among companies of all sizes. Currently, 30% of servers are virtualized, and surveys show that by 2012, that number will grow to 50%.
Virtualization and cloud computing go hand in hand, and virtualizing servers is just the tip of the iceberg. The trend to virtualize everything from servers to processing power to software offerings actually started years ago in the personal sector.
Recently, it was common for individuals within major organizations to use virtualized services or cloud computing when at home, but at work they weren’t using those services at all. Why? Because corporate IT didn’t trust the lack of security of the cloud, and they weren’t sure it was a hard trend—something that was definitely here to stay. Today, we know better.
In order to fully understand how virtualization and cloud computing will transform the business world, let’s first look at the evolution of these capabilities.
When talking about virtualization, cloud computing is a natural component. Cloud computing, which refers to companies using remote servers that can store data and allow users to access information from anywhere, takes three different evolutionary forms.
The first is a public cloud. This could be something like Google Docs, where you store your data, or something like Flicker, where you store your photos. Basically, you’re storing files somewhere else other than your hard drive, and in a place where you can access the items from any device at any time as long as you have an Internet connection.
The second form of cloud computing, which is a private cloud, is emerging rapidly. A private cloud exists when a company wants added security with cloud computing, yet still wants its people to have access to their bigger files and bigger databases from any device anywhere. Since it’s private, it’s secure and the public does not have access to it. Companies are now beginning to establish private clouds.
The third iteration that is part of the evolution of cloud computing is the private/public cloud—also called a hybrid cloud. In this configuration, you have a private part of your corporate cloud that is secure and only accessible by employees, but you also have a part of the cloud that is public where strategic partners, vendors, and customers can access limited content.
Virtualization can take many forms aside from servers. For example, you can virtualize a desktop, meaning your desktop is stored virtually in the clouds and you can access it from anywhere. You can virtualize your operating system. That means you can be using a Mac yet running the latest Windows operating system, or you can have a PC and have three different operating systems running at the same time. That’s the power of virtualization.
Another element of virtualization is software-as-a-service (SaaS). Decades ago, we started with software that we had to buy, install, maintain and update. Thanks to SaaS, the software is in the clouds, so you no longer buy it; you simply buy time to use it. It’s a cost-effective way for companies of all sizes to have access to enterprise-level software.