In Boston today for a customer focus group, discussing various customer needs once again.

We had great discussions with three distinct customer groups: large enterprises, SMB/SME and end-users. We went from 12 Noon to 10 p.m. in three separate sessions. What a day! While I can share everything we learned, a couple of significant things really stood out.

The Virtual Machines is Spinning Up Nicely

First, most large companies are well underway using VM technology to consolidate their server rooms, and some SMB are also now catching on. It clear that this is a huge sweet spot for VMWare, and an inescapable trend of IT and data center management. The benefits of server virtualzation are many, including laying a foundation for disaster recovery, recovering rack space sorely needed for expansion and reducing the humming sounds emanating UPS systems.

Server Virtualization effectively subdivides a server CPU into multiple logical units, allowing each one to be managed separately. This separation is giving rise to a tremendous number of benefits. It the rest of the operational problems I had for years according to one customer. The biggest TCO comes from the resultant server consolidation that now possible, along with cost avoidance of additional data center space, air conditioning and power that would otherwise be required.

Not only have VM cross the chasm, they in what Geoffrey Moore calls the phase of hyper-growth, where the market just can satiate its appetite for most everything VM. The amazing thing is, the biggest portion of this market is yet to come – 90% or more of the market has yet to adopt VM technology. This topic warrants more discussion in future posts . . . especially where desktop virtualization is concerned.

On x64 Architecture Awareness

So, with that backdrop in mind, imagine the response customers who are headlong into server virtualization have when you say the word Remember the Sprint commercials? It was that quiet when x64 was mentioned today. This isn the first time I seen this phenomenon, either.

I beginning to think that while a group of us truly do understand x64 technology, and that fact that it runs 32-bit applications natively very efficiently, not everyone gets it yet. Unfortunately, it appears that on the surface, most people jump to the conclusion that 64-bit computing still means for 64-bit applications. Nothing could be further from reality…

Windows x64 actually runs the operating system kernel in 64-bit mode, as well as 32-bit native and 64-bit native applications.

According to Wikipedia, x64 is:

is a 64-bit microprocessor architecture and corresponding instruction set; it is a superset of the x86 architecture, which it natively supports. It was designed by Advanced Micro Devices, which markets it under the name AMD64. This architecture has also been adopted under the names EM64T and IA-32e by Intel. The names x86-64 or x64 are sometimes used as vendor-neutral terms to collectively refer to the two nearly-identical implementations. are many advantages to the x64 architecture, chief among them is its ability to directly address up to 1 TB (terabyte) of memory. Why is this so important for 32-bit applications, you might ask? Well, it acutely important in a multi-user system running lots of 32-bit application sessions – like Terminal Server and Citrix Presentation Server. Why? Lots of reasons…

It allows up to 300% more 32-bit Windows applications to run on a typical CPS and TS server (compared to a 32-bit server). This is primarily because the Windows OS doesn hit the same kernel data structure walls that blocked additional user sessions on a 32-bit machine, combined with the fact that it virtually eliminates unnecessary page swapping (assuming you put enough memory in the server, of course). Now, once you get past those barriers, the server can also its CPU more effectively in many cases (I would surmise that in some case going beyond 2 CPU could also be beneficial).

The bottom line? Windows x64 running CPS 4 will support up to 300% more users per server, yet the server costs are only marginally higher, yielding dramatically better TCO. Apparently, a large part of the market still thinks x64 primarily benefits 64-bit apps. like databases or new 64-bit code. Somehow, we need to help the marketplace, Citrix customers, the benefits of the x64 architecture for today 32-bit Windows applications.

While this focus group represents a relatively small sample size, based upon many other data points, I certain these observations are reasonably accurate. I be very interested in everyone else viewpoints here.

The VM is clearly on track to change the way data centers are organized and operationally managed. x64 servers are still in the early stages of their adoption lifecycle. It should get really interesting if an tornado of tomorrow someday meets its VM counterpart and their TCO streams cross into our world.

Until next time, happy trails.