In a recent newsletter we introduced the concept of Application Delivery 2.0, a major component of which is virtualization. This is the sixth in a series of newsletters that discusses how we think that virtualization will dramatically shape 2010 and beyond. Whereas previous newsletters discussed virtualized servers and virtualized desktops, this newsletter will discuss virtualized WAN optimization controllers (WOC).
One of the concepts that is typically associated with cloud computing is the dynamic provisioning of virtual machines. While this might sound like a simple concept, it is not. As discussed in a recent newsletter, if IT organizations are going to successfully provision virtual machines dynamically, they also need to be able to dynamically provision all of the supporting infrastructure, including WOCs. This is not possible with the traditional hardware based appliance. The ability to dynamically provision WOCs requires the deployment of virtual WOCs.
One of the potential downsides of a virtual WOC is performance. The conventional wisdom in our industry is that a solution based on dedicated, purpose-built hardware performs better than a solution in which software is running on a generic piece of hardware, particularly if that hardware is supporting multiple applications. However, conventional wisdom is often wrong and IT organizations need to test the performance of a virtual WOC in their environment prior to determining if a virtual WOC is an appropriate solution.
Virtual WOCs have the potential to disrupt the WOC market. For example, an advantage of virtual WOCs is that it is notably easier to download a virtual WOC than it is to ship a traditional hardware based appliance. This means that it is possible for WOC vendors to let users download and use a virtual WOC free of charge for some period of time. The motivation to do this on the part of the WOC vendor is that if the WOC improves network and application performance, the user is in position to build the business case to acquire the WOC. In addition, it is reasonable to expect that in 2010 at least some of the WOC vendors that have a small market share will aggressively price their virtual WOCs as a way to gain market share. This will put pressure on the WOC vendors that have the significant market share to respond.
This is the last in the series of newsletters on virtualization. We will undoubtedly come back to this topic in future newsletters because as we said in the first newsletter in this series – virtualization changes everything. In the mean time, more insight into the changes we expect to see in 2010 can be found in Jim's recent report on cloud computing.