Virtualization Could Save Feds $30 Billion By 2015

Government IT departments at all levels are embracing virtualization, mainly for data center consolidation, survey finds. But they'll have to jump implementation hurdles.
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
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Implementing virtualization technology could save the federal government more than $30 billion by 2015, though lack of funding and technical challenges could impede adoption of the technology among all levels of government, according to a new survey.

The use of virtualization is growing among federal, state, and local governments, with the feds slightly ahead of their state and local counterparts in implementing the technology, according to the "Virtualization Vacuum: The 2012 Government Virtualization Study" by MeriTalk.

Server virtualization--driven primarily by data-center consolidation happening at the federal and regional level--is trumping desktop virtualization, with 82% of federal and 77% of state and local IT pros surveyed saying their agencies have implemented it.

Both federal and state/local pros surveyed said that virtualized workloads in the data center would nearly double in the next four years, from 37% to 63%. Moreover, savings from federal investment in the technology--which is currently about $15 billlion--is expected to reach $23.6 billion by 2015, according to MeriTalk, which surveyed 302 federal, state and local government IT decision makers for the report.

Comparatively, IT pros reported much more modest plans for desktop virtualization, but the feds could still realize $7.5 billion in savings from it by 2015, according to the survey.

[ Virtualization is a top priority for many CIOs in 2012. Read more at Virtualization Tops CIO Priorities In 2012: IDC .]

Currently, only 7% of federal agencies and 8% of state/local agencies plan to virtualize all applications for all users, though respondents showed more support for selective application virtualization.

For example, 12% of federal IT pros surveyed said their agencies will virtualize all applications for select users or departments, while 9% said the same at the state/local level. And 28% of federal IT pros and 15% of state/local pros said their agencies or departments would virtualize select applications for all users.

Still, priority-wise, the survey shows desktop virtualization remains on the back burner and presents a "vast, untapped savings potential," according to MeriTalk. Fifty-seven percent of federal IT pros and 63% of state/local pros said that server virtualization goals are more important than desktop goals, while only 37% of federal and 31% of state/local pros said the goals were equally important.

Despite the investment in and benefits from virtualization so far, there are challenges to continued implementation of the technology, according to MeriTalk.

Budgetary concerns are one of the main issues, with 30% of federal IT pros and 41% of state/local pros reporting that they don't have the budget to meet their agency's or department's virtualization goals.

Technical challenges also are slowing down the adoption of the technology, according to the survey. Government IT pros cited migrating legacy applications to a virtualized environment as the top challenge for their virtualization goals, while network security and technical support requirements came in at No. 4 on the list of challenges.

Time required to implement virtualization and capital costs came in between the two technical challenges as issues holding back government virtualization goals, according to the survey.

InformationWeek's 2012 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2012 InformationWeek 500 issue and on Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2012 Government IT Innovators closes April 27.