Virtualisation is the one of the fastest growing segments of the technology market today, yet there are signs that amid the hyperbole that has accompanied its rapid adoption is a sense that users’ expectations of its benefits are over-inflated.
That is one the key message that emerged from the 350 IT practitioners surveyed in Information Age’s latest research, with many emphasising that virtualisation should not be regarded as a panacea for today’s litany of IT challenges.
Nonetheless, the research (conducted in conjunction with IT management software company CA) shows the allure of virtualisation. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of those surveyed have currently implemented some form of virtualisation technology. For the majority, this has been at the server level (60%), but a further 36% have introduced storage virtualisation. There is also embryonic take up of PC virtualisation (28%) and network virtualisation (18%).
Of those yet to start down the virtualisation path, the most common obstacle was a desire to see the technology working first (15%) – however, there were still notable concerns that virtualisation is either too daunting (13%), too immature (8%), or too expensive (5%).
The belief that virtualisation offers a route to improve the effectiveness of the IT infrastructure is clear. There were high expectations for the technology reported in the research. Over three-quarters (78%) expect virtualisation to deliver a reduction in hardware costs and nearly as many (73%) expect it to result in improved availability. At the same time, over half expected virtualisation to reduce the resources needed to manage the data centre (54%), and to reduce the organisation’s energy footprint (56%).
Yet in spite of the high hopes among those starting out on the journey to virtualisation, the reality has not been quite so gratifying. When repondents were asked about the tangible benefits that had actually been realised, the drop off between expectation and experience was palpable. Only 46% reported that they had encountered hardware savings; 34% had seen improved availability; 29% had reduced data centre management overheads; 32% had seen energy consumption fall.
Of even greater concern than that perception gap was the finging that 30% of respondents had as yet experienced no benefits from implementing virtualisation technology whatsoever.
The reasons for this are not immediately apparent. It is possible that users have found it difficult to make meaningful comparisons of the pre- and post-virtualised infrastructure – 14% of respondents admitted they hadn’t made any such comparison. But the results also indicate the potential systems management difficulties in dealing with the abstract world of a virtual environment.
It is likely that the full benefits of virtualisation will crystallise as reports emerge about the more mature implementations, where virtualisation is the de facto mode of operation rather than the new toy. But for now, organisations need to balance their expectations with the reality of a technology that is, in many ways, still discovering its limitations.