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IBM this week unveiled its latest generation of industry standard Linux-only servers optimized for its Power architecture along with a new strategy targeting specific x86 applications and workloads.

IBM has been a longtime Linux proponent, supporting industry standard distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise – on its Power Systems line for the last 12 years. This week’s announcement reaffirms Big Blue’s commitment to Linux and broadens its scope with offerings designed to drive more growth for the Power platform in the lucrative x86 arena. IBM will fuel this growth via its mantra, “Tuned to the task,” which emphasizes delivering higher quality and superior economics than rivals.

According to Scott Handy, vice president of IBM’s PowerLinux Strategy and Business Development, “This is an extension to our overall Power strategy to address the Linux x86 space and drive more growth for our Power Systems servers.”

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The ongoing buzz surrounding cloud computing – particularly public clouds – is far outpacing actual deployments by mainstream users. To date only 14% of companies have deployed or plan to deploy a private cloud infrastructure within the next two calendar quarters.
Instead, as businesses slowly recover from the ongoing economic downturn, their most immediate priorities are to upgrades to legacy desktop and server hardware, outmoded applications and to expand their virtualization deployments. Those are the results of the latest ITIC 2010 Virtualization and High Availability survey which polled C-level executives and IT managers at 400 organizations worldwide.
ITIC partnered with Stratus Technologies and Sunbelt Software to conduct the Web-based survey of multiple choice questions and essay comments. ITIC also conducted first person interviews with over two dozen end to obtain anecdotal responses on the primary accelerators or impediments to virtualization, high availability and reliability, cloud computing. The survey also queried customers on whether or not their current network infrastructure and mission critical applications were adequate enough to handle new technologies and the increasing demands of the business.
The survey showed that for now at least, although, many midsized and large enterprises are contemplating a move to the cloud – especially a private cloud infrastructure – the technology and business model is still not essential for most businesses. Some 48% of survey participants said they have no plans to migrate to private cloud architecture within the next 12 months while another 33% said their companies are studying the issue but have no firm plans to deploy.

The study also indicates that Private Cloud deployments are outpacing Public Cloud Infrastructure deployments by a 2 to 1 margin. However before businesses can begin to consider a private cloud deployment they must first upgrade the “building block” components of their existing environments e.g., server and desktop hardware, WAN infrastructure; storage, security and applications. Only 11% of businesses described their server and desktop hardware as leading edge or state-of-the-art. And just 8% of respondents characterized their desktop and application environment as leading edge.

The largest proportion of the survey participants – 52% – described their desktop and server hardware working well, while 48% said their applications were up-to-date. However, 34% acknowledged that some of their server hardware needed to be updated. A higher percentage of users 41% admitted that their mission critical software applications were due to be refreshed. And a small 3% minority said that a significant portion of both their hardware and mission critical applications were outmoded and adversely impacting the performance and reliability of their networks.

Based on the survey data and customer interviews, ITIC anticipates that from now until October, companies’ primary focus will be on infrastructure improvements.

Reliability and Uptime Lag

The biggest surprise in this survey from the 2009 High Availability and Fault Tolerant survey, which ITIC & Stratus conducted nearly one year ago, was the decline in the number of survey participants who said their organizations required 99.99% uptime and reliability. In this latest survey, the largest portion of respondents – 38% — or nearly 4 out of 10 businesses said that 99.9% uptime — the equivalent of 8.76 hours of per server, per annum downtime was the minimum acceptable amount for their mission critical line of business (LOB) applications. This is more than three times the 12% of respondents who said that 99.9% uptime was acceptable in the prior 2009 survey. Overall, 62% or nearly two-thirds of survey participants indicated their organizations are willing to live with higher levels of downtime than were considered acceptable in previous years.
Some 39% of survey respondents – almost 4 out of 10 respondents indicated that their organizations demand high availability which ITIC defines as four nines of uptime or greater. Specifically, 27% said their organizations require 99.99% uptime; another 6% need 99.999% uptime and a 3% minority require the highest 99.999% level of availability.
The customer interviews found that the ongoing economic downturn, aged/aging network infrastructures (server and desktop hardware and older applications), layoffs, hiring freezes and the new standard operating procedure (SOP) “do more with less” has made 99.9% uptime more palatable than in previous years.
Those firms that do not keep track of the number and severity of their outages have no way of gauging the financial and data losses to the business. Even a cursory comparison indicates substantial cost disparities between 99% uptime and 99.99% uptime. The monetary costs, business impact and risks associated with downtime will vary by company as well as the duration and severity of individual outage incidents. However a small or midsize business, for example, which estimates the hourly cost of downtime to be a very conservative $10,000 per hour, would potentially incur losses of $876,000 per year at a data center with 99% application availability (87 hours downtime). By contrast, a company whose data center operations has 99.99% uptime, would incur losses of $87,600 or one-tenth that of a firm with conventional 99% availability.
Ironically, the need for rock-solid network reliability has never been greater. The rise of Web-based applications and new technologies like virtualization and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), as well as the emergence of public or shared cloud computing models are designed to maximize productivity. But without the proper safeguards these new datacenter paradigms may raise the risk of downtime. The Association for Computer Operations Management/ Data Center Institute (AFCOM) forecasts that one-in-four data centers will experience a serious business disruption over the next five years.
At the same time, customer interviews revealed that over half of all businesses 56% lack the budget for high availability technology. Another ongoing challenge is that 78% of survey participants acknowledged that their companies either lack the skills or simply do not attempt to quantify the monetary and business costs associated with hourly downtime. The reasons for this are well documented. Some organizations don’t routinely do this and those that attempt to calculate costs and damages run into difficulties collecting data because the data resides with many individuals across the enterprise. Inter-departmental communication, cooperation and collaboration is sorely lacking at many firms. Only 22% of survey respondents were able assign a specific cost to one hour of downtime and most of them gave conservative estimates of $1,000 to $25,000 for a one hour network outage. Only 13% of the 22% of survey participants who were able to quantify the cost of downtime indicated that their hourly losses would top $175,000 or more.

Users Confident and Committed to Virtualization Technology
The news was more upbeat with respect to virtualization – especially server virtualization deployments. Organizations are both confident and comfortable with virtualization technology.
72% of respondents indicated the number of desktop and server-based applications demanding high availability has increased over the past two years. The survey also found that a 77% majority of participants run business critical applications on virtual machines. Not surprisingly, the survey data showed that virtualization usage will continue to expand over the next 12 months. A 79% majority – approximately eight-out-of-10 respondents — said the number of business critical applications running on virtual machines and virtual desktops will increase significantly over the next year. Server virtualization is very much a mainstream and accepted technology. The responses to this question indicate increased adoption as well as confidence. Nearly one-quarter of the respondents – 24% say that more than 75% of their production servers are VMs. Overall 44% of respondents say than over 50% of their servers are VMs. However, none of the survey participants indicate that 100% of their servers are virtualized. Additionally, only 6% of survey resp

There’s no hotter market in high tech this year than Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and you don’t need sales and unit shipment statistics to prove it. No, the best measurement of VDI’s hotness is the sudden flurry of vendor announcements accompanied by a concomitant rise in vitriol.
The main players in the VDI market are actually two sets of pairs. It’s Citrix and Microsoft lining up against VMware and EMC for Round 2 in the ongoing virtualization wars. On March 18, Citrix and Microsoft came out swinging, landing the first potent, preemptive punches right where they hope will hurt VMware the most: in its pocketbook.
Citrix and Microsoft unveiled a series of VDI initiatives that include aggressive promotional pricing deals and more simplified licensing models. To demonstrate just how solid and committed they are to their alliance and taking on and taking down VMware and EMC, the two firms even went so far as to combine their respective VDI graphics technologies.
At stake is the leadership position in the nascent, but rapidly expanding global VDI market. The results of the ITIC 2010 Global Virtualization Deployment and Trends Survey which polled 800+ businesses worldwide in the December/January timeframe indicate that 31% of respondents plan to implement VDI in 2010; that’s more than double the 13% that said they would undertake a VDI deployment in 2009. Application virtualization is also on the rise. The same ITIC survey found that 37% of participants plan application virtualization upgrades this year, up from 15% who responded affirmatively to the same question in the 2009.
The current installed base of VDI deployments is still relatively small; hence the statistics that show the number of deployments doubling year over year must be considered in that context. Nonetheless, double digit deployment figures are evidence of strengthening demand and a market that is robustly transitioning from niche to mainstream. The spate of announcements from Microsoft and Citrix were clearly intended to capitalize on the growth spurt in VDI. At the same time, the companies threw down the gauntlet with initiatives aimed at solidifying and expanding their base of current VDI customers while serving the dual purpose of luring VMware customers away from that company’s VDI platform. They include:
• “VDI Kick Start” This wide ranging sales promotion, which runs from March 18 through December 31, 2010, seeks to jump start VDI deployments by lowering the entry level pricing for customers purchasing Microsoft and Citrix technologies. As part of this deal, existing Microsoft client access licensing (CAL) customers will pay $28 per desktop for up to 250 users to purchase the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Suite, Standard edition, and Citrix’s XenDesktop VDI Edition for one year. That’s roughly a 50% discount off the list prices that corporations have paid up until now for their annual CALs. This is crucial for cost conscious businesses. Client access licenses typically represent the lion’s share of their licensing deals since desktops outnumber servers in mid-sized and large enterprises. In addition to merging Microsoft’s 3-D graphics technology for virtual desktops, called RemoteFX, with Citrix’s high-definition HDX technology.

• The Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) License Plan. Organizations that use Thin Client devices which are not included or covered under Microsoft’s SA maintenance plan, can now purchase the VDA licenses at a retail price of $100 per device per annum. This targets end users who travel or telecommute and need to use personal devices or public networks to access their corporate data. Microsoft also made another move towards simplifying its virtualization licensing plan. Starting July 1, Microsoft SA customers will no longer be required to purchase a separate license to access Windows via a VDI.
• The “Rescue for VMware VDI” (the name says it all) this promotion is a direct attack on VMware. Like the VDI Kick Start program it runs from March 18 through December 31, 2010. Under the terms of this deal, any Microsoft Software Assurance licensing/maintenance customer can replace their existing VMware View licenses for free. VMware View users who opt out of that platform in favor of the Citrix and Microsoft offerings will receive up to 500 XenDesktop VDI Edition device licenses and up to 500 Microsoft VDI Standard Suite device licenses free for an entire year once they trade in their VMware View licenses.
Dai Vu, Microsoft’s director of virtualization marketing said the announcements were all about delivering more value to desktop customers and simplifying and extending organizations’ licensing rights.
The Citrix/Microsoft announcements also cement the close working partnership and the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship the firms have enjoyed for many years. By bundling their respective VDI offerings together, the two companies should also ensure integration and interoperability which are crucial components for each and every layer in a virtualized data center environment.
VMware and EMC: Not Standing Still
VMware and EMC executives have yet to publicly respond to the Microsoft/Citrix initiatives. However, it’s almost certain that VMware will have to offer its current and prospective VDI accounts incentives to counter the Microsoft/Citrix alliance. Cash strapped corporations and IT departments are all on the lookout for top notch products at bargain basement prices. And it doesn’t get much better for customers than the free Rescue for VMware VDI program.
VMware built up a commanding lead in the server virtualization arena over the last five years by virtue of being first to market and delivering leading edge features and performance in its signature ESX Server product. VMware’s competitors have spent the last several years playing catch up in server virtualization. This allowed VMware to charge a premium price for its premier offerings. Depending on the size and scope of the individual organization’s server virtualization deployment, customers paid on average 35% to as much as 75% higher for VMware server-based offerings. There were surprisingly few complaints.
The emerging VDI and application virtualization markets are a different story. Only about 5% to 8% of organizations worldwide have fully virtualized their desktop infrastructure. So it’s too soon to declare a clear market winner. It’s safe to say that Citrix, Microsoft and VMware are all market leaders in this segment. This time around though, Microsoft and Citrix are determined not to let VMware and EMC run away with the race by building an insurmountable lead.
Meanwhile, VMware and EMC have not been idle. Former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz succeeded VMware founder Diane Greene following her 2008 departure as the company’s president and chief executive officer. Since then he has made tangible moves to bolster VMware’s position in the VDI and application virtualization arenas. Maritz and EMC CEO Joe Tucci make a formidable combination, as do EMC and VMware. EMC purchased VMware in 2004 for $635 million and it owns an 86% majority stake in the server virtualization market leader. In the past several years, VMware’s fortunes and revenues have risen faster than EMC’s. VMware’s year-over-year (YoY) quarterly revenue growth stands at 18.20% compared with EMC’s modest 2.10% Y0Y quarterly sales. Another key indicator is net earnings and in this regard, VMware experienced negative YoY quarterly earnings growth of -49.4 0% . By contrast its parent EMC recorded a very robust and positive 44.70% jump in YoY quarterly earnings. It is also worth noting that VMware’s annual revenues of $2.02 billion represent only 15% of EMC’s annual sales of $14.03 billion. And to date, EMC’s solutions have only been related tangentially to VMware’s VDI products. For practical purposes, this may continue to be the case. From a PR standpoint though, EMC and VMware are presenting themselves as a sort of virtualization “dynamic duo.”
At an EMC Analyst event at the company’s Hopkinton, MA headquarters on March 11, Pat Gelsinger, president of EMC’s Information Infrastructure Products group described the combination of EMC and VMware – specifically with respect to storage virtualization, virtualization management and private cloud infrastructures — as the “Wild West” of the virtualization market, saying “we want to be disruptive and change the way people fundamentally think of IT.” Though Gelsinger mainly confined his comments to EMC’s core bailiwick in the storage arena, it is clear that EMC and VMware are pro-actively presenting a united front.
In February, the two firms moved to reposition some of their assets; EMC and VMware inked a deal for VMware to acquire certain software products and expertise from EMC’s Ionix IT management business in an all cash deal for $200 million. EMC does retain the Ionix brand and gets full reseller rights to continue to offer customers the products acquired by VMware. Maritz said VMware’s acquisition of the Ionix products and expertise promises to further establish VMware vCenter as the next generation management platform for private cloud infrastructures.
The agreement also calls for VMware to take control of all the technology and intellectual property of FastScale, which EMC acquired in 2009. The FastScale Composer Suite incorporates integrated software management tools to enable organizations to maintain peak performance in a virtualized environment.
Also, recently, VMware introduced ThinApp 4.5, a new version of its application virtualization package designed to simplify enterprises’ migration to Windows 7.
End Users are the Biggest Winners
What makes the latest competition for VDI market dominance noteworthy is the extreme actions the combatants are willing to take in order to retain and gain customers’ at their rivals expense. With last week’s joint announcements and deepening partnership, Citrix and Microsoft have signaled their intention to lead but it’s still too early to call the race.
The joint Microsoft/Citrix initiatives to cut costs and simplify virtualization licensing plans remove two of the more significant barriers to VDI adoption. The largest looming challenge remains the willingness of corporations to embrace a new technology model as their organizations and IT departments continue to grapple with the lingering effects of the ongoing economic crunch. In this regard, all of the virtualization vendors in concert with OEM hardware vendors like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Stratus Technologies and Wyse who partner with them must convince customers that transitioning to VDI will provide tangible Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI) benefits. This entails providing organizations with the necessary guidance – including tools, training, documentation, Best Practices and solid technical service and support – to ensure that a conversion to VDI can be accomplished with minimal disruption. Admittedly, this is a tall order.
Hardware vendors like Dell, HP, IBM et al all have a stake in the future success of the VDI market. Organizations that migrate to VDI will seek to upgrade to newer, more powerful desktops (PCs, notebooks) and servers, which in turn, potentially boosts the hardware vendors’ individual and collective bottom lines. Additionally, both HP and IBM boast huge service and support organizations, which also stand to benefit from an uptick in VDI adoptions. So the hardware vendors have every reason to partner with Citrix, Microsoft and VMware to promote and expand the VDI market segment. Regardless of which vendor(s) prevails, the biggest winners will be the customers. When several big name vendors vie for the hearts, minds and wallets of customers, it usually means that feature-rich, reliable products get to market sooner at more competitive prices. Let’s hope the VDI race is a long one.