What's Your Virtualization Strategy?
Virtualization was the big topic at last week's Interop event in New York City as vendors and enterprise IT architects alike tout the ability of virtualized environments to reduce costs, improve flexibility, and enable organizations to quickly deliver new services.
Virtualization was the big topic at last week's Interop event in New York City as vendors and enterprise IT architects alike tout the ability of virtualized environments to reduce costs, improve flexibility, and enable organizations to quickly deliver new services.You might be wondering to yourself "what is an article on virtualization doing here on No Jitter?". Good question. The reason is that those responsible for planning unified communications architectures need to become aware of virtualization technologies, as well as virtualization plans within their organization.
The concepts of virtualization are simple: move your organization from dedicated hardware and systems that support individual applications to an approach where all computing resources are shared. Applications don't live on specific appliances or servers, rather they exist as processes spread across multiple servers, sharing resources with a variety of different resources.
From the desktop perspective, a virtualized environment breaks the chains between devices and users, allows a user to log into a desktop or mobile device and receive their customized services regardless of location. Enterprises can further benefit from virtualization by replacing expensive, energy consuming desktop computers with thin-client terminals, in effect bringing us full circle back to a mainframe-TN3270 architecture.
So how does virtualization impact UC? Let's first look at the desktop impact.
Many enterprises are moving forward with plans to deliver unified communications capabilities based on a real-time communications dashboard (RTCD) such as Avaya OneX Desktop, Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, IBM Lotus Sametime, Microsoft Office Communicator, Nortel MCS, or any one of a number of similar products from other vendors. How these clients will be used will vary by organization. On one end of the spectrum is simply to use a RTCD to track presence and initiate communications. In effect the desktop client becomes the uber-buddy list, interconnected with existing or planned applications to initiate phone calls, instant messaging sessions, or audio/web/video conferences.
The more innovative approach is to take advantage of the ability to use these clients as softphones or video end-points, using codecs built into these clients to process voice and/or video streams. As Microsoft noted during its much-discussed keynote at VoiceCon spring last year, moving voice/video processing onto the PC offers the potential to reduce capital costs for UC by up to 50% versus an approach based on dedicated hardware such as IP phones and/or video end-points.
And thus we arrive at the potential for disconnect. What happens if your UC plans, based on pushing voice/video processing onto the PC, aren't in sync with your organization's virtualization strategy based on thin-clients with all processing occurring in a virtualized server environment? Will the additional delay introduced by routing voice/video traffic to a distant data center introduced unacceptable user quality?
Nemertes recently found that the overwhelming majority of end-user organizations have not yet addressed the challenge of integrating virtualization and UC, with just 5% of IT executives participating in our recent Unified Communications and Collaboration benchmark already integrating UC and virtualization planning.
Fortunately, a number of vendors are merging virtualization and UC into innovative new products. Mitel and Sun recently introduced Mitel Unified IP Client for Sun Ray," a set of integrated appliances that combine Mitel unified-communications applications with Sun's SunRay desktop virtualization services. Via Java-based access cards, users can access telephony and desktop services via any Mitel Sun Ray-enabled device. NEC, through an OEM agreement with Wyse, offers a thin-client device with on-board digital signal processing capabilities to support voice and video. Users can simply plug a headset or web cam directly into the thin client. Citrix and Cisco are testing methods for using Cisco web-based telephony & video solutions with virtualized desktops.
As the worlds of UC and virtualization collide, IT architects would be wise to ask both their UC partners, as well as their counterparts in server and desktop planning groups "What's your virtualization strategy?"