Many fashions and tastes in our world come in cycles – they rise to prominence, burn brightly, and fade out, only to be called laughable by the next generation. So too is it with computing technology and the rise of virtual machines, cloud computing, and the disappearance of the physical server. Fifty years ago, IBM started working with virtualization, something that got mostly shelved until the late 1990s with Microsoft. For the last decade, virtual computing has come back into vogue, making rapid advancements in Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike as cost savings and convenience take the place of hands-on control and absolute security over data.
Of course, all is not well in the world of cloud computing, and there are a number of new issues that the market has to address. The first is security – both public and private clouds suffer from the problem that someone has to be able to access the data, and who that is often is ill-defined. Companies may not set as stringent security protocols as they should, and many are concerned with having their data located in a physical space that may be hundreds of miles from their offices. As well, current cloud systems often suffer from what is known as the VM I/O blender – as different disk I/Os on the same server all call up different operations, the performance of the machine throttles, no matter the type of hypervisor used. New technology such as sequential stream I/O is being developed to combat these issues.
It’s possible that in 20 years cloud computing will be the “old fashion” system laughed at by the mainstream, but for now the technology is here to stay and offers a new twist on an old concept.