Virtualisation taking off, HP sector head says

Nick van der Zweep, HP's director of virtualisation programmes, spoke to Robert Mullins at the HP Technology Forum in Las Vegas last month and was upbeat about his field.

What is your message to HP customers?

The message is that we’re heading into pervasive virtualisation now. If you look back over a number of years, it was a lot of early adopters that were in the fray. Now it’s really difficult to find a company that hasn’t done some [virtualisation] project. With enterprise customers and even some large-to-medium-sized customers, 75% of them tell us that they have already implemented a virtualisation project or will implement one within 12 months.

We certainly don’t see 75% of our servers going out the door with virtualisation on them. We’re probably, in the ProLiant space, in the single digits, but growing fast. Of our Integrity high-end servers, probably around 60% of them go out with virtualisation.

Of those who are in that 75%, how are they deploying it? I’ve heard people say they’re more likely to try virtualisation in a part of their IT system, like software testing and development, than in production. Are you finding that?

I’ve seen lots in production. When we ask for a show of hands in customer meetings of how many are using virtualisation, 75% of the hands go up. And when we ask how many are using it in production, of the 75% who put their hands up, only about 25% of them put their hands down.

But while virtualisation has its benefits, we’re hearing that it adds a degree of complexity to system management that can be difficult for customers. Is that what you’re hearing?

Yes and no. If you think about a physical machine, you’ve got the hardware and you install Windows or Linux or HP-UX or whatever, and that’s it. Then you run your operations.

When you put virtualisation into the fray, you now get the box and you install the hypervisor and then you slice it up [apportioning a number of virtual machines onto the physical servers].

Some of the early adopter companies took a few people from their staff ... managing servers and put them off to the side and said, ‘You are our virtualisation guinea pig people’. They would learn how to manage virtualisation and the rest of the staff would stay and manage the physical boxes. But as you move more of those servers into production, that allows the staff group to reunite again.

We integrated virtualisation management into Systems Insight Manager so you see the whole [environment]. But you can get yourself into some trouble with virtualisation. Before, you had 10 servers and 10 copies of Windows. Now you might have 10 physical servers but 50 virtual servers.

You’ve got to manage across a much bigger virtual environment than the physical environment you had in the past. We had a lot of pleas from our customers to ‘Please pull this back together so we can provide better management of the virtual environment’.

Is your virtualisation manager software brand-agnostic?

We focus Systems Insight Manager and Virtual Machine Manager on our ProLiant servers, for instance, but if you have a Dell or IBM server with VMware installed on it, it will detect it’s Dell or IBM, that there’s VMware on it and work in that environment.

But is the interaction the same experience as if it was an HP server?

For the most part. From a VMware standpoint, it’s equivalent, but [it’s different] when you get into hardware specifics. You can click on a ProLiant server and see the temperatures and fan speeds and if something goes wrong, Systems Insight Manager can even call back to HP and have somebody come up to fix it without you even knowing about it. We don’t do that for the Dell and IBM systems.

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