Dividing up computing capacity inside an organization is not only cutting a company's ties to fixed-in place servers -- it's cutting the cords of managers to the hardware that they are supervising.
"Now, all of a sudden, there's a lot of rope," said Brian Stevens, chief technology officer of Red Hat, a supplier of Linux operating systems and support, at the first Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit in midtown Manhattan.
That's because virtualization of computers, where software splits up available computing, network and storage capacity into "virtual" machines, pipes and blocks of memory, has moved from just consolidating servers, the first target of the practice. Now, companies finding cost-efficiencies and flexibility from the practice are moving to "virtualize" complete computer farms and networks.
This is allowing information technology managers to manage those farms and networks using software, instead of hands-on adjustments to hardware, by walking around, said Parag Patel, vice president, Global Strategic Alliances for VMWare, a market leader in supplying virtualization software.
Now, VMWare, he said, is supplying customers with what he terms a "data center operating system'' that allows managers to track and change system-level features and functions, from availability of computing power to recovery of interrupted systems to security of hardware and networks.
This was first done for clusters of computers, he said, but is now being applied to entire data centers. That makes it easier and more efficient to manage where virtual machines appear, where they disappear, where they relocate and what applications are attached to each one.
Physical boundaries are being replaced with logical boundaries, he said. But the movement is putting increasing demands on internal networks, which not only must carry data from all these multiplying machines, but keep track of where these machines are, at all times.
The networks also must be employed to keep track of what machines connect to what slices of storage, where and for how long; as well as what parts of the network each can use.
As a result of the surge in virtual machines, the number of network links that must be created and managed has surged 80 percent or more, according to Glenn Dasmalchi, Enterprise Sector CTO of Juniper Networks.
How the network is being used also is being radically altered not just by machines inside the network, but machines that are now attaching to the network, Patel and Stevens said. Now, employees and executives are using not just desktop machines, but a wide variety of smartphones, tablet computers and portable machines, which must be tracked, accommodated and managed.