The virtualisation revolution is only just getting underway. To date, x86 server and storage environments have been the main targets but they do not represent the limit of organisations’ ambitions in this technology area.

Canvassing IT decision makers at 273 mid-sized and large organisations, Information Age and survey partners Computacenter and Sun Microsystems found a growing trend for virtualisation that spans multiple server platforms.

Today, one in four companies has already deployed virtualisation on machines other than x86. And based on their plans for future deployment, that could rise to one in three in coming months.

The growth in the diversity of virtualised server platforms is a trend that analysts at IT industry advisor Gartner are picking up on.

“We think there is [going to be] a big emphasis on heterogeneous virtualisation – multiple virtualisation technologies with common services, common models and common approaches,” says Phil Dawson, a UK based Gartner research vice-president specialising in IT infrastructure and virtualisation. “Rather than just x86, which has had all the [recent] marketing behind it, we think that heterogeneous virtualisation is going to be the area of growth.”

Four virtualisation technology vendors stand out as enablers of that multi-platform push, according to respondents to the survey: the market leader, VMware, its open source rival Xen, and virtualisation software from two giants of the operating system world, Microsoft with Hyper-V and Sun Microsystems with Solaris Unix virtualisation, LDoms and xVM.

Virtualisation has made all of those environments vehicles for consolidation.

“Prior to the [current] virtualisation bandwagon, consolidation was a strong Unix play,” says Dawson. “It wasn’t until virtualisation that the consolidation move kicked in for x86.”

With the broadening of the market, he says, systems integrators will play a much more prominent role – especially among mid-sized organisations, where such partners will “bring virtualisation to the mass market”.

Beyond servers

Servers are not the only interest area for virtualisation, though. Over a third of all respondents said they are considering desktop virtualisation for future deployment. That is a sharp rise from the 21% who have some form of desktop virtualisation in place today.

Storage virtualisation is also on the rise. While 26% of those surveyed have already applied virtualisation technologies to their storage environments, that figure is set to rise to almost 30% if those considering future deployment act on their intentions.

Indeed, Gartner argues that networking the data storage infrastructure is a prerequisite to any significant virtualisation project. “You have to externalise storage to do any form of movement of the workloads for consolidation and virtualisation,” says Dawson.

That highlights a level of growing interdependency between virtualised environments, says Computacenter solutions architect Richard Wilson. “Take up of virtualisation on x86 has been higher than on the Unix side simply due to complexity. Unix environments by their very nature tend to support high-availability and mission-critical applications with tighter integrations and dependencies on the operating systems.”

“When you undertake a virtualisation project, it is essential that you look at virtualisation in its entirety – cross-platform, cross-technology – and also understand both the business and technical constraints within the organisations and design a process that works.”

Among the Information Age readers, there is clearly an appreciation that further phases of virtualisation will be more complex. Only 13% said that virtualisation would be universally applied within their organisations, while 36% said it would be widely applied, but not for every business application.

With only 46 of the 273 decision makers surveyed reporting that they had no plans to adopt virtualisation, the message is clear. “We’ll apply it anywhere we see a cost saving,” as one survey respondent put it.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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