I’ve been doing some work in the server virtualization area recently. I used to think that virtualization was a niche that would never really catch on for the big time. However, the more I learn the more I am amazed. I think we are at an inflection point, right now, where virtualization is going to grow and never look back. I believe that in 5 years we will look back and say, “I can’t believe that I used to install most of my applications on bare metal. We were so short-sighted then.” It’s similar to how we view Linux and OSS today compared to the proprietary systems of yesteryear.

There are multiple reasons the line is inflecting:

  • the overhead cost of virtualization (as compared to bare metal) is becoming acceptable. Commodity hardware can run with enough cores and enough RAM that it isn’t horribly expensive anymore. The benefit is coming in line with falling cost.
  • the maturity of the hypervisors has gotten to be quite good. The field has lots of players, and the competition is beneficial for consumers.
  • the cost of the hypervisors has dropped dramatically. In many cases, what can be better than “free”? (I mean gratis, not libre.)
  • management tools for hypervisors and virtual images are arriving and improving. As an example, look at what VMware is doing. Other vendors are trying to do similar.

I also see lots of talk about desktop virtualization. It’s interesting, but that’s not where the first wave and big wave will be at. The action, the adoption, and the money (both in savings for consumers, and profit for suppliers) will be in server virtualization. Just as desktop Linux has followed server Linux, desktop virtualization will follow server virtualization. Virtualization will be the next “big thing” in computing.