Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Write Me A Proliant with 18 Processors

I admit that I have too much time on my hands. I've been pondering the future of our industry. Follow me and see if this makes sense.

We're moving into a world filled with virtualization and cloud computing. Already this month Zenith has announced a very cool system that allows you to drag and drop icons to create an entire virtual environment.

Virtual servers, virtual desktops. Virtual firewalls!

At some point we'll all get comfortable with that.

Then . . .

HP and Dell and other hardware manufacturers are going to find that the low end of their market is shrinking very fast. We've seen all the fanfare about "going green" by eliminating servers.

There are fewer physical servers because there are more virtual servers.

So HP says . . .

"What the heck is going on? We need to figure out how to sell more servers!"

And they come up with an obvious conclusion . . .

They begin to write specialty servers -- virtual servers filled to the max with proprietary technologies.

Because it's all virtual, it's all zero's and one's. It's all programming. Therefore, it can be written to take advantage of the environment in which it exists.

- Intel will write specialty virtual processors that are optimized for the underlying architecture, optimized for the virtual environment, and optimized for the applications being run.

- HP will write specialty virtual servers that are optimized for the underlying architecture, the virtual environment, and the applications.

- Cisco will build high-end, customized firewalls and switches.

All of this assumes that the underlying architecture is super-mondo-beefy -- or that it consists of a massive interconnected web of computers that can handle extremely large computing jobs without straining. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have these systems today. Others are building more.

Each network of "computing power" is massively parallel and spread across the Internet, so it's massively stable and self-healing.

At this point . . .

Old-school hardware manufacturers will make money writing boutique hardware to operate in the virtual world.

and twenty minutes later . . .

The open source world will figure out how to do the same thing.

NOW HP has a whole new problem. It's one thing to lose business to people building clone hardware. Now they'll have people writing clone (virtual) hardware!

- - - - -

So you have to wonder . . . where are the tools I need to start learning to write open source hardware?


How horrible can this get?

"Brand name" services will use Genuine Intel virtual processors and HP virtual servers. These will be sold via SPLA-like pricing on a monthly basis.

Cheap homemade crap will use Cousin Larry's Pretty Good kadunkadunk processors and works-okay virtual servers. These are "free" and mostly work. Except that some poor programmer couldn't figure out the GB Ethernet code, so he put 10/100 NICs on the virtual machines. :-)

- - - - -

I'm sure consultants will be just as important as they are today. But, man! our job's going to be a lot different than it is today.

See you in the future!



  1. Hey Karl,

    This is already starting to happen. You can create and redistribute images for Amazon EC2, VMWare has a marketplace for "appliances" and rpath.org contains a selection of virtual machines compiled for a range of host software.

    The main barrier at the moment is that it's conceptually hard for non-technical people to understand, and virtualized technology has not yet proven itself as stable/reliable.

    Having said that, since we started offering VPS' as an alternative to dedicated servers for client web hosting, all our clients have gone for the VPS option as it's much cheaper and the amount of support required has gone down.

    No more weekend drives to the data center to replace a bad NIC can only be a good thing!

    It's a very exciting time to be a consultant as there's a good chance we'll see a huge shift to virtualized systems in the next few years which are going to need a significant amount of support and integration.

  2. Very good info.

    And, yes, part of the promise of virtualization is reduced (and easier) maintenance.


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