SPOTLIGHT: Innovation of the week: Server virtualization

Last week's IPO by server virtualization juggernaut VMware got me thinking a lot about the concept of server virtualization, and how it might come in handy for the enterprise strategies of public network service providers. Virtualization overall is a trend for telecom players. For instance, network virtualization involves the allocation of bandwidth resources to create virtual private networks.

I've heard server virtualization described as a "masking" of the enterprise server environment in such a way that server administrators can divide the resources of a single physical server to create multiple virtual servers running multiple applications. "Masking" is kind of a needlessly nefarious-sounding term, but that's more or less what's happening from the enterprise user view. But for a service provider or other network administrator offering server virtualization, there are at least three ways of presenting the capability.

The first (and probably most common) is by using virtual machine model. This means actually running virtualization software on a host hardware server to allocate server resources to create virtual server. The second is the act of porting some server resources and privileges to a guest server from the host. The third is by using only an operating system kernel from the host to create virtual machines.

In the case of both network virtualization and server virtualization, telcos have the opportunity to provide more flexible service capabilities to meet enterprise needs, while eliminating or decreasing many of the costs related to physical equipment deployment, footprint and maintenance.

While VMware may be on the tips of everyone's tongues right now, telcos looking into server virtualization options would do well to check out XenSource (now being acquired by Citrix Systems), IBM, Microsoft, Symantec, Virtual Iron Software, NetApp, RapidApp, Trigence, and others. Here's more about server virtualization from InfoWorld.

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