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4/2/2006
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Virtual Confusion In The Data Center?

It's virtually impossible to talk about the state of current and future data centers without virtualization being the first word heard from IT professionals, analysts, and the media. But the degree to which virtualization is actually being deployed by businesses today is widely debated, and it's increasingly difficult to project which virtualization software company will emerge as the dominate force over the next few years.

It's virtually impossible to talk about the state of current and future data centers without virtualization being the first word heard from IT professionals, analysts, and the media. But the degree to which virtualization is actually being deployed by businesses today is widely debated, and it's increasingly difficult to project which virtualization software company will emerge as the dominate force over the next few years.In a recently published survey of members of AFCOM, the leading association for data center professionals, 37% of respondents said they would use a combination of grid computing and virtualization in their data centers within one to two years, and an additional 17% said they would implement a similar strategy within three to five years. But surprisingly, 42% of those surveyed said they had no plans to implement grid computing or virtualization.

After the tremendous amount of attention virtualization has received over the past two years, with many IT officials testifying to its effectiveness in addressing a long history of poor server utilization, it's startling and perhaps even troubling that more than 40% of data center professional still don't see a need to at least experiment with some level of data center virtualization.

Maybe many data center professionals just aren't sure which way the wind blows in virtualization. VMware has the early lead in virtualization, and the company says more than 20,000 companies are currently using its software for server virtualization.

"In the past year, people have taken virtualization and VMware into and across their production data centers, where they are running hundreds and, in a lot cases, thousands of server environments in a virtual infrastructure," says Dan Chu, senior director of developer products at VMware.

But Microsoft, which last week again delayed new additions to its virtualization software and isn't expected to deliver the complete solution until it's combined with the Longhorn server release in 2008, says the market is still very nascent.

"The market is moving--and moving in a positive direction--to explore virtualization very broadly," says Jim Ni, senior technical group product manager for Microsoft. "But when you look at deployments, it's still mostly for development and test today. We'll be poised for the market as it starts to really adopt."

And there are hot startups like Virtual Iron, XenSource, and SWsoft that are playing around the edges, improving their products, and trying to find where they'll fit in the virtual future as commoditization and competitive pricing increase in the market.

So is this the year of virtualization? Are enterprise data centers ready to deploy virtualized environments on a major scale? Or will most CIOs and data center professionals continue to wait as they evaluate how this market will shake out over the next two years?

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