Virtual success factors

Not many technology adoption curves resemble that of server virtualisation. For 30 years, it was a low flat line,was a low flat line, fed by sales of hypervisors for mainframes and high-end servers. But in the last few years, it has soared upwards as organisations have sought to virtualise their estates of industrystandard x86 servers.

That enthusiastic take-up is all too evident in Information Age’s latest reader research into the virtualisation experience, undertaken in collaboration with Computacenter and Sun Microsystems. Almost 60% of the 273 IT decision makers surveyed have server virtualisation in place. Moreover, a third of those boast that their virtualisation environments are “stable and mature”.

But there is more to come: the largest single group in the assessment of adoption were new converts – 29% said they were in the planning/testing stage. Indeed, only one in five said they were not actually considering server virtualisation.

Virtual drivers

The main business drivers behind that adoption are shared by most companies. IT costs, data centre space and energy, and business agility were all high on the agenda.

Just over half the sample identified “pressure to reduce costs” as a key reason for embracing virtualisation, and almost the same proportion identified the ”need to cut footprint/energy consumption” and “demand for greater business agility”.

While those were the key themes, there were plenty of other drivers: demand for greater availability and ensured business continuity; the need to reduce systems management overhead; and the ease with which testing environments can be created.

Increasingly, server virtualisation is now also being trusted for more demanding workloads. While many early implementations involved non-mission critical applications, those concerns are softening. Over two-thirds (68%) have applied the technology to run core applications.

That does not mean that deployment is without its challenges. Almost half of virtualisation adopters (45%) said they had problems migrating between existing and virtualised environments, and about the same number mentioned challenges involving the complexity of monitoring and managing both physical and virtual environments and the management of software licences in a virtual environment.

Other issues involve virtualisation governance – control of the proliferation of virtual machines, the increased complexity in the back up and recovery of virtual machines, and in security management. Such concerns are likely to drive further demand for systems integrators and consultants with experience in handling more complex virtualisation projects.

Great expectations

The extent of those challenges may also account for a slightly lower return on investment (ROI) than might be expected. Only 8% of virtualisation users said the technology had exceeded their ROI expectations, and only a quarter thought it had met their expectations on all levels. The majority (56%) reported that they saw a return on investment at most levels. Only four companies (3% of virtualisation users) said the technology had failed to meet ROI expectations.

Those improvements, though, are across the board. The top five areas where organisations are realising benefits include more efficient use of hardware/lower hardware spend; the ability to consolidate systems infrastructure; flexibility through the rapid provisioning of systems; reduced systems footprints; and a lower energy bill.

There are plenty of metrics that can be used to assess the benefits of virtualisation – but the attitude of one respondent to the survey perhaps sums up the widely held belief that server virtualisation is a technology that over, rather than under, delivers. “It is not worth measuring the benefits; clearly it is making savings and we don’t need to quantify them.”

With the prevalence of views like these, the slope of virtualisation’s adoption curve can only get steeper.


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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