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The cloud & virtualization explained

Bell executive outlines example of a 'virtual' move at DatacenterDynamics

January 1, 2010  

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Cloud computing and server virtualization are becoming essential tools for addressing the biggest business demands of IT, particularly in the data centre space, says Todd Lemay, the director of professional services at Bell Canada.

Speaking at the DatacenterDynamics conference in Toronto in December, he said that while virtualization underpins cloud computing, the two technologies serve different purposes.

According to the UK-based show organizer, which will host events at 35 locations around the world this year, pre-conceptions of how data centres are designed, built and operated are once again being challenged: “The rising tide of regulation, a scarcity of capital and natural resources, and a challenging economic environment continue to drive a revision of data centre and IT infrastructure strategy.”

Camille Mendler, an analyst with the Yankee Group, wrote in a blog on the research firm’s site late last year that while the definition of cloud computing is hazy at best, it has unique potential to “save the enterprise cost, reduce complexity and provide highly available service to the end-user or client. With such compelling benefits, companies should look to understand cloud better — what it is, what it isn’t and what it will be.”

Lemay conceded that there are a lot of people who consider cloud computing to be nothing but hype. Chief among them is Larry Ellison, the CEO and co-founder of Oracle Corp., who has delivered at least two famous rants on the topic in the past couple of years.

Still, there is no denying the fact that cloud services will become part of an expanding portfolio of options for organizations, Lemay said and that as a result, cloud centric applications will dominate the market.

Strahan McCarten, Bell’s director of product management for data centres and hosting services, stated on the firm’s Web site that cloud computing has been confused with virtualization, but the two are not the same. He added that together, both will lead to unprecedented mobility of applications and data.

“You will be able to move workloads between data centres and providers that are federated together in much the same way that people use and consume electricity today,” he said. “If you’re designing a new application that is going to have wild fluctuations in capacity, you should be focused on cloud computing. Otherwise, concentrate on virtualization — that’s where you will find immediate efficiencies.”

During his presentation, Lemay outlined a recent example of a “virtual” data centre move involving Groupe Promutuel, the Quebec-based property insurance and financial services firm.

A team of 10 consultants from Promutuel and Bell moved the entire 12 Terabyte environment 250 kilometres using a “virtual approach” and according to Lemay, 300 physical servers were reduced to one mainframe and 20 Linux servers and 30 Windows servers.

“The primary site is now a highly redundant infrastructure,” he said. “The next phase will see the client take their applications into a cloud environment so that it can leverage its elasticity.”