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Cloud Killed the Virtualization Star

Community Manager

I may be dating myself, but anyone else remember when MTV® played music videos? The first one they ever played was The Buggle's "Video Killed the Radio Star."  The synth-pop feel of the song seemed so out of place with the words, which outlined the demise of the age of the radio personality. Thinking back, this was the first time I can remember thinking about one new technology completely supplanting another. The corollary to this concept is that radio stars are now antiquated and unneeded.

Fast forward a few decades and I'm entrenched in IT. I'm happily doing my job and I hear about a new technology: virtualization. At first, I discounted it as a fad (as I'm sure many of us old-school technologists did). Then it matured, stabilized, and gained a foothold.

One technology again supplanted another and virtualization killed the physical server star. Did this really kill off physical servers entirely? Of course not. No more so than video killed radio. It just added a level of abstraction. Application owners no longer needed to worry about the physical hardware, just the operating system and their applications. Two things happened:

1.       Application owners had less to worry about

2.       A need for people with virtualization experience developed

From that point on, every new person who entered IT understood virtualization as a part of the IT stack.  It was a technology that became accepted and direct knowledge of physical servers was relegated to secondary or specialized knowledge. Having knowledge about firmware and drivers was suddenly so "retro."

Virtualization matured and continued to flourish, and with it, new vendors and capabilities entered the market, but dark clouds were on the horizon. Or perhaps they weren't dark-just "clouds" on the horizon. As in private clouds, hybrid clouds, public clouds, fill-in-the-blank clouds. The first vendor I remember really pushing the cloud was Amazon® with their Amazon Web ServicesTM (AWS®).

Thinking back, this seemed like history repeating itself. After all, according to many, Amazon nearly destroyed all brick and mortar bookstores. It looked like they were trying to do the same for on-premises virtualization. After all, why worry about the hardware and storage yourself when you can pay someone else to worry about it, right?

This seems reminiscent of the what happened with virtualization. You didn't worry about the physical server anymore-it became someone else's problem. You just cared about your virtual machine.

So, did cloud kill the virtualization star, which previously killed the server star? Of course not. For the foreseeable future, cloud will not supplant the virtualization specialist, no more so than virtualization supplanted the server specialist. It's now just a different specialization within the IT landscape.

What does this mean for us in IT? Most importantly, keep abreast of emerging technologies. Look to where you can extend your knowledge and become more valuable, but don't "forget" your roots.

You never know-one day you may be asked to update server firmware.

This is a cross-post from a post with the same name on the VMBlog.

Level 20

This is all true... I suppose the biggest hurdle still is trusting your data in someone's datacenter that isn't controlled by you.

Level 14

Why is trusting data to someone else so hard? There is a legal data-mining clause in every single contract from Google, AWS, Microsoft. etc.; it's legal for them to steal it and resell it!  What bothers me most is that they don't offer a "Thank you" clause for giving them permission. The least they can do is appreciate me turning a blind eye to the behavior.

But as stated above, IT is all about building blocks, and each tech mentioned is just another addition, not necessarily a replacement.

Community Manager
Community Manager

True, but that's not much different than trusting your hardware to a different team (virtualization team).  All of this is just another layer of abstraction, like the processor is of integrated circuits, or that integrated circuits is of logic gates, or how virtual memory address is of memory.  You have to trust: either your own team and infrastructure or pay someone else for that trust.

Trust in the cloud is only part of the problem.  Trusting the developers not to leave the S3 bucket open to the world because "any any is easy and fixes the issue" is the hard part.


This circular pattern certainly bears out the axiom that "Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it."  But that may not always be a bad thing.

Of course, it's also not always efficient, particularly if we don't learn from the mistakes of the past while trying to create a working present and a better future.

Level 13

What's next.  You been doing this long enough everything comes around again.

Adapt or die, as I say to my team members


Nice article

Speaking of trust, our CISO shared a story of doing a sight survey to the data center of a potential vendor.  The "cloud" that they were trusting their data and what would ultimately be our data if we had used the vendor, was housed in an old Yieldings store front...complete with unsecured glass store front windows and the "data center" was at the center of the store secured by an 8 foot tall wall made of two by fours and sheets of plywood.


somewhere is still has to run on someones hardware.

Someone still has to worry about firmware and drivers...whether in house or not but I guess the new age server admin does not..

Well... in a way video did kill plenty of radio stars. Namely, all those progressive rock bands of the 70's who couldn't make the transition: SuperTramp, ELO, ELP, Yes (they were completely done over by the time "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" came out), Alan Parsons Project, and others.


Sad but true tinmann0715​.....

Level 12

The only thing that really changes with all of this is who the server admin gets their paycheck from. VM's on prem and in the cloud still have to run on a physical server somewhere. All you are doing is condensing your power and workloads from a lot of physical space to a much smaller space. Until they are able to create a vm that can be hosted on a literal rain cloud, your going to need server admins.

Community Manager
Community Manager

My understanding is that this was a cover and the original song, which was more about video (television) supplanting radio programs.  And in that sense, it did kill it.  Soap operas moved from radio to television and all but disappeared.  When I was younger, I took it another way - both interpretations seem valid depending on your viewpoint.

Level 15

After 3 and 1/2 decades of keeping 1's and 0's moving between points, I have seen lots of change and lots of the same.  I agree that as we move forward the ultimate detail is who pays the administrator not that the administrator will be supplanted.  It seems strange to see Server/Dumb Terminal evolve into Client/Server evolve into Terminal Services/Smart Clients evolve into Zero Clients evolve into Web Services and then open the doors to Hybrid IT.  I think as long as we stay in or near the current and don't get caught in any eddies that we will be needed for the forseeable future.

Level 11

Never forget the basics.

Prepare for & adapt to massive changes.


A story for you.

Last week, I spent some time with a Cisco engineer to install UCS Director. We're checking out its bare metal deployment capabilities for building new ESXi hosts en masse because we're lazy interested in automation. We deployed the bare metal appliance (a virtual appliance, of course), set up the PXE boot and DHCP configs, and tried to deploy some servers. No dice. Double checked configs, all looked good.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that we were dealing with a linux box here. So I logged into the console, went to /var/log, and did a tail -f messages | grep dhcpd. Then we tried the PXE boot again, and noted in the logs that the wrong subnet address was being handed out, which prevented the host from connecting to the TFTP server to download the image. We vi'd the dhcpd.conf file to correct the issue, restarted dhcpd, and the PXE boot worked like a charm.

Even when you're working with new tech, functional knowledge of fundamental IT principles like logging, troubleshooting, and text manipulation will serve you well.

Community Manager
Community Manager

+1 to this.

Never forget your roots... ever.

About the Author
Kevin's first computer was the family TI-99/4A. He's learned computing the best way possible: by fixing his own broken machines. He was a SolarWinds customer for nearly 10 years before joining the company. He's worked the range of IT jobs: from the 3-person consultancy to the international law firm. Along the way, he's become a SolarWinds advocate and evangelist of monitoring glory. His passions include shooting archery, blacksmithing, playing D&D, and helping IT professionals leave at a reasonable time each and every day.