I view it as critical to maintain as close of touch with “trends” and new ideas as possible so I try out many of the new web-based applications that my kids are using. All but Match.com of course as my wife thought experimentation there went just a bit too far….
As an Information-centric IT company, I am pleased to report that we are creating new information like crazy. One of the more interesting sites is “Second Life” which now has over a million accounts. In short, Second Life, let’s you create a “virtual” you (Avatar) and explore a virtual world and interact just like you would in the “real” one - almost. What is interesting is that a “real” economy is evolving around this virtual community in terms of buying virtual land (for real $), setting up businesses (with virtual and real products), etc.
You can see for yourself if you need more detail (Second Life). The simple fact is the virtualization is expanding what we can do. With any technology there are ways in which it can go awry.
One short riff on privacy and anonymity – One of the largest problems I believe we have created with much of this new technology is that we actually allow too much anonymity – in the name of “privacy.” To me, this has inhibited the full exploitation of many facets of new technology for business uses. For example, I would like to participate and leverage lots of technology like this but, even in a virtual world (for business), there is little value if you can’t identify the person on the other end of the interaction.
A simple example, I am sick of getting anonymous emails where the spammer, marketer or company says “please do not reply to the Email” or simply hides who they are. I always want to send back a note saying, if you don’t think there is enough value in listening to me, how you could possibly think there is any value in me listening to you! The other problem with anonymity, is that it generally puts people in a position of doing things they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) normally do.
OK, back to the story. Virtualization relative to IT infrastructures has been huge success. We are effectively separating the Software from the Hardware which can provide a multitude of benefits. One of the early benefits has been consolidation. As IT had evolved to a “one application, one server” mentality – server virtualization offers a way to radically consolidate HW resources. Virtual networks let use share resources without building new infrastructures.
Yes I know we have done this on Mainframes for decades. The point is that we now can do it on HW that is affordable, scaleable, and where little is required in terms of fault tolerance.
Virtualization, I believe however, will go well beyond it beginnings and become a key base unpinning within the Flat IT world. Utilization will be a part of it but, more importantly, virtualization allows us to create a completely fluid and dynamic IT environment. This fluidity is the lynchpin in terms of how we really build IT Utilities.
Let’s think about some simple examples. If you have ever configured a server, think about the time it takes to change a server from a Web server to a database server, to an Email server. Even with the best tools, it is not easy and it is definitely not dynamic. With virtualization the fluidity of change will simply move to a completely new level, allowing IT resources to be applied (leveraging other technologies like Grid) almost instantaneously to meet changing needs.
For most IT Managers, I believe they would just be happy not having to plan downtime when the want to migrate a server or storage system. Yes, in ten years we might have a fully autonomous dynamic self-managing IT environment but, there is huge value is just the first basic step – separating the Software from the Hardware.