Despite $120 barrels of oil, the home mortgage debacle, and an increasingly gloomy economic outlook, spending in the IT market remains relatively strong. Perhaps nowhere is the evidence stronger than at Apple, which has seen a recent surge in Macintosh computer sales. Conventional wisdom says that Apple hardware sales have been goosed by the runaway success of the iPhone and the iPod, with fans of those devices willing to give the Mac a try. I'm sure that's the case in the consumer market. True story: A Windows IT Pro colleague recently confided in me that she may ditch her Vista home PC for a Macintosh. One reason for the switch? Virtualization software for the Mac—like Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion—allow Mac users to install Windows and run the Windows applications they need, making it a relatively painless process to dump their PCs and give the Mac a try.
Consumer sales are one thing, but what about the enterprise? I've yet to see compelling statistics that show the Mac is making a sizeable dent in the dominance of Windows in the enterprise. And let's face it: The business IT landscape will undoubtedly be dominated by Microsoft and its partners well into the 21st Century. That said, there are some examples of businesses embracing the Macintosh and ditching their Windows PC, thanks mainly to virtualization technology.
"When Apple announced that it was moving to Intel hardware, we say that as a great opportunity for us," says Pat Lee, group manager for consumer products at VMware. Lee says that VMware's long history in x86-based virtualization gave them lots of experience to draw from when creating the Mac-based VMware Fusion, which was released in 2006. Lee says that VMware Fusion 2.0 is currently in beta, and adds support for multiple displays, DirectX 9.0 3D support (with Shader Model 2 graphics), improved importing of Parallels and Virtual PC for Mac virtual machines (VMs) to Fusion, and other new or enhanced features. Lee also has seen first-hand how the Mac is making inroads in the enterprise, beginning with some of his colleagues at VMware.
"At VMware, we're a company that is primarily focused on developing products for enterprise IT. But within VMware, the number of Macs that I see my colleagues using at work seems to be growing daily, thanks to products like VMware Fusion."
I also spoke with Ben Rudolph, the director of corporate communications at Parallels, to get a feel for how big of an impact virtualization is having on Mac sales. Rudolph said that Parallels Desktop just passed the 1 million units sold mark, and has been the best-selling Macintosh utility software for some time. "One of the first pieces of software that new Mac users buy is Parallels Desktop," says Rudolph. "With Parallels Desktop I think we've defined what virtualization can be for the masses."
Rudolph also points to some inroads Apple has made in areas long dominated by Windows machines, such as business IT and the educational market. "There's a Web hosting provider called Media Temple that used to be an all-Windows shop," says Rudolph. "They recently pulled all of their PCs and switched to Macs running Parallels." Rudolph also pointed to Auto Warehousing, a company that provides automotive storage and logistics services. The company was using a VIN tracking application that worked only on Windows machines, but Rudolph said that the CIO of Auto Warehousing—Dale Frantz—had ongoing issues with his Windows environment that led him to replace those Windows PCs in all of their offices with Macs running Parallels Desktop. Parallels has even more Mac success stories to share, ranging from wins with Fortune 50 companies to school districts that dumped their Windows PCs and went with a Parallel-powered Mac virtualization solution.
Part of the appeal of the Parallels Desktop virtualization offering is that Mac users can even hide the fact that they're running Windows Vista at all, says Rudolph. "Coherence mode \[in Parallels Desktop\] allows users to run just the applications they want to, and they never have to see the Windows interface or the taskbar," says Rudolph. "The application still is a Windows application, but everything else is running on Macintosh."
So what's next for Parallels and Mac virtualization? A server version of Parallels is currently in beta testing, and the company expects to release the final product in early summer. The server version includes a bare-metal hypervisor for server virtualization, as well as a number of other features that larger enterprises may find useful. "\[Parallels Server\] will help people standardize on Apple Xservers and truly take advantage of Apple hardware if they want to."
By Jeff James
VirtualLogix Unveils VLX vHA
Virtualization solution provider VirtualLogix has announced VLX vHA, a product that integrates with their VLX for Network Infrastructure to provide high-availability (HA) capability for mobile communications equipment. "There are growing requirements to increase the up-time of all types of communications equipment in today's competitive environment," says Mark Milligan, vice president of marketing at VirtualLogix. "High-availability techniques have \[traditionally\] been mostly applied in high-end core networks due to complexity and hardware cost. VLX vHA now enables our customers to take full advantage of high availability combined with virtualization." For more information on VLX vHA, visit www.virtuallogix.com.
JumpBox Launches Application Updates
JumpBox has announced a number of new and updated JumpBox virtual server applications that are currently available for beta testing. New JumpBoxes have been added for Wordpress 2.5.1, Joomla! 1.5.3, SugarCRM 4.5.1i, TikiWiki 1.9.11, and Moin Moin 1.6.3. JumpBox has also revealed JumpBox Open, a new subscription service that allows easier access to current (and future) JumpBoxes at a reduced cost. For more information about JumpBox, visit www.jumpbox.com.
CiRBA 4.6 Adds Cross-Platform Support
The latest version of CiRBA’s virtualization and consolidation analysis software introduces improved workload benchmarking and analysis support for iSCSI-based storage. Perhaps the most significant feature of this release is support for mainframes, a feature that CiRBA claims will model how applications could perform in heterogeneous mainframe environments. “We see a significant demand for cross-platform transformations, including the migration of applications to mainframe environments,” said Andrew Hillier, CiRBA co-founder and CTO. “This requires cross-platform data acquisition, cross-strategy analytics and the ability to model the performance of different types of workload personalities on different platforms. For more information about CiRBA, visit www.cirba.com.
Tips & Tricks:
5 Virtualization Deployment and Security Tips
By Jeff James
Virtualization technology has impacted the IT industry in a major way over the past decade, and it's clear that it will continue to remake the face of IT. But what if you're still on the fence about employing virtualization, or have only taken some modest steps toward embracing virtualization as an IT priority? In order to help you get started with a successful virtualization deployment, we spoke with some industry experts to come up with a short checklist of things to consider before taking the virtualization plunge.
1. Plan Ahead
Like any major IT project, prudent planning before you've purchased your first server or deployed the first desktop can help save you lots of heartache (and help preserve your IT budget). "Virtualization is so hot right now, that some people unfamiliar with the technology look at it like snake oil because it claims to do everything," says Parallel's Ben Rudolph. "There's a huge upside to virtualizing your IT infrastructure, but you need to make sure you have a good plan to support that."
2. Assess Your Needs
Understanding your needs is a vital part of the planning process but should help you determine what virtualization tools and products are right for your infrastructure. Are there some applications that don't need to be virtualized? Do some machines have to be upgrade to run the virtualization products that you're considering? "It's so damn easy to create virtual machines and bang out more virtual servers, that you can quickly find yourself buried in VMs," says Rudolph.
3. Use the Right Tools
To those unfamiliar with virtualization, the confusing welter of terminology and virtualization types can be overwhelming. In addition to server virtualization, there's application virtualization, application streaming, and desktop virtualization. Then there are vendors that sell products that provide solutions that fall between those categories. "You really need to be judicious and make sure that the virtualization tools you're choosing meet your needs," says Rudolph. Some organizations may have legacy application considerations, so a hypervisor solution may not be appropriate, but a container-based application virtualization solution might be. "The greatest \[virtualization\] success stories are the ones where the organization deploying it really planned ahead and correctly assessed their needs, and chose the correct tools for the job," says Rudolph.
4. Embrace Flexibility
Deploying a virtualization solution also requires that IT pros think differently about how they view their assets. Greg Ness, vice president of marketing at virtualization security provide Blue Lane Technologies, stresses that virtualization introduces IT flexibility that needs to be carefully managed. "Virtualization provides for new levels of flexibility and mobility," says Ness. "Keeping track of those new virtual assets becomes very important." VMs are notoriously easy to create, copy, and move, which can be a huge advantage. But with that ability comes the potential of VMs to quickly proliferate out of control, which leads to cost, efficiency, and security issues. To quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility!
5. Remember Security
Just like physical hardware in a traditional IT infrastructure, VMs must also be monitored and secured. Ness says that communication between VMs can be a potential security vulnerability, a weakness that IT pros used to securing physical machines may not consider. "The ability to see and monitor traffic between VMs is very important," Ness says. One VM could easily corrupt another, and tools like VMware's Vmotion can quickly copy infected VMs across an enterprise, making what was formerly a problem confined to one VM a situation that can impact the entire IT infrastructure.