I clearly remember Larry Ellison on stage at Oracle Open World this year saying; ‘if you are delivering a transactional application under SaaS from a virtualised datacentre then it’s not a cloud! The audience reaction was mostly one of puzzlement, but after recent meetings with big players, IBM and HP, and a selection of new contenders led by Joyent, an Intel Capital backed player (see notes at end), there is no doubt that dramatic change is well on the way. Oracle-Sun is changing as well to support the Oracle stack, but as this is more focussed on a closed vertical stack approach it doesn’t come in the same category as the generic or horizontal layer players.
The challenge is to recognise that the ‘next generation data centre’ or ‘NexGenDC’ is going to have to support a radically different group of technologies, deployed, and using resources, in a equally radically different way from the client-server, or mainframe applications running today.

A recent interview of Dave Shirk of HP by ZDnet around the HP view of this started by identifying ‘three mega trends’ driving this; pervasive mobility; highly responsive cloud computing models, (which I take to mean constantly changing orchestrations of services); and knowledge adept social collaborations. What all three have in common and is different from current IT is that they are involve huge numbers of people and devices in a constantly churning environment with little structure, non-deterministic demand, and are not restricted to the internal controlled environment of the enterprise, and its IT systems.
In truth they are technically different being stateless, and loose coupled against IT systems based on traditional transactional applications being state-full, close coupled and therefore comprising of a structure environment with clear control over when and how to change to deal with the inevitable dependencies and consequences. Little wonder that CIO.com declared as the title of a recent online article ‘Virtualisation (of the current data centre) meets its limits’ before going on to state that ‘if we are going to get the most out of highly virtualised, cloud ready environments we are probably going to have to rethink the way IT is organised’. The point of their article was that at 30 to 40% virtualisation there is something of a wall which demands how anything and everything is managed.
But what if support of the three new trends identified by Dave Shirk required 100% virtualisation and auto provisioning to support constantly changing combinations of users, devices, services and real time data use, and there aren’t any traditional applications? Here is the big point that all the data centre vendors will make clear over the coming year, and that includes VMware as it supports and enables the changing curve. A data centre should consist of a single virtual set of each type of resource, i.e. computational power, storage etc, and not as in the current data centre, a mass of virtualised individual servers each still running multiple operating system images.
That’s some change! To get the point it’s easier to think about it from the perspective of what this NexGenDC will be supporting in the business, using the three mega trends mentioned earlier, rather than from a technology perspective. First is the impact of pervasive mobility as in the number of people and devices connecting by different media evoking constant calls for different services, internal and external, including sign on and policy management as well as user services to be consumed. Second consider the statement ‘highly responsive cloud computing’ as shift in what these devices are used for, ranging from second generation browsers with Rich Internet Applications (see post Why your browser upgrade is the most likely reason for device and operating system upgrade), to multimedia tablets making speech and video normal services. Under combining the two trends leads to the increasing need to support the constant interaction of people in their chaotic interactions rather than the stable connections between selected computers.
Any resemblance to the current measurable, deterministic internally controlled world of current IT running a finite number of transactional applications with known numbers of users is purely accidental! The scale of activities and the speed of change simply mean taking virtualisation to the next layer, and that means the entire data centre! Even if that pretty scary to contemplate, the realisation that it will need to be done is a short term aid in choosing what, when and how to use virtualisation today!
Notes; I mentioned Joyent and new date centre models in passing as part of my post on the Intel Capital event and their investment direction for new technology. In this post i provided a link to their white paper on the topic of data centre level virtualisation which is worth reading.