Most companies have done the easy part of server virtualization. Now they need better management tools and new IT procedures to keep the momentum going.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

August 20, 2010

3 Min Read

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Consolidation remains the primary driver behind server virtualization. That's not surprising, but InformationWeek's second annual survey on the state of virtualization shows a sobering assessment on the pace and rationales for server virtualization.

A year ago, 24% of respondents expected to have 25% to 49% of their production servers virtualized by the end of 2011, but this year only 20% expect that will be the case . Likewise, 21% said 50% to 74% of their servers would be virtualized last year, while only 19% expect to hit that level this year.

Virtualization is increasingly about operational flexibility, a priority for 53% of respondents this year compared with 41% a year ago. Operational flexibility includes being able to quickly produce a server for a line-of-business user and being able to quickly tear down a server no longer in use. Scheduling and load balancing of virtual server hosts makes applications more scalable than previously thought possible, letting businesses respond to fluctuating demand without cutting other functions.

With flexibility comes complexity. Although only a fraction of the data center has been virtualized, virtual machine life-cycle management and uncontrolled generation of VMs, referred to as virtual machine sprawl, is a growing concern. It's third on respondents' list of top concerns this year, up from fifth last year.

The top concern this year is that existing data center management tools be able to reach virtual environments. Close behind is application performance monitoring, which helps ensure that applications meet expected performance levels and service-level agreements. These are the right concerns and are stopping virtualization from making faster inroads into the data center. Cost savings are of no value if application performance suffers.

Another significant concern is the lack of rigor in measuring return on investment. Consolidation of servers running at 5% utilization was a no-brainer. The next steps aren't so obvious and require better management tools and even new IT procedures. Those looking to virtualize 75% or more their environment must carefully assess the costs, risks, and benefits of doing so. Recession-weary CFOs will undoubtedly see the costs as staggering, and the payback less than certain.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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