Virtualization Takes Off In The Data Center And Beyond - InformationWeek

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Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith

Virtualization Takes Off In The Data Center And Beyond

InformationWeek Research examines just what companies are doing to make virtualization work.

Adoption PlansServer virtualization projects are in the works just about everywhere. Nearly 90% of 250 business technology professionals recently polled by InformationWeek Research say they have projects in progress or are planning them for the future.

For a lot of companies, virtualization isn't just an IT tactic, it's a key strategic move. In a separate survey on IT priorities, 37% cite virtualization as a key business priority for this year--putting it on par with priorities such as making better use of customer data and ahead of moving to service-oriented architecture (28%). Virtualization is more than an IT boiler room issue.

Pros And Cons Of Going Virtual

Why Do ItRunning fewer hardware servers saves money and space in a data center. That's clearly the primary driver behind this trend.

In addition, nearly three out of five business technology professionals say server virtualization is very important to the effectiveness of their companies' IT infrastructure. Other reasons cited for adopting virtualization technology include supporting disaster recovery, software testing, and storage management initiatives.

For the 10% of companies not planning to implement virtual servers, the top reason is lack of funds and high cost. Other reasons include lack of skilled staffers and the amount of training required to bring people up to speed, as well as the increased complexity of virtual environments.

Why Do ItMost companies' virtualization efforts are in the data center, but many see potential for expansion. Three-quarters of IT pros in the recent survey say virtualization eventually will reach the desktop in the form of central servers supplying virtualized applications. Sixteen percent expect that to happen in less than a year.

More than a third of those polled say they're already bundling middleware into their virtual machines, including application, identity management, and integration servers.

How Do You Manage Virtual Machines?
Once virtual servers are in place, managing them poses some challenges. It's not an automated process--92% of companies running virtual environments have IT staffers managing them. In fact, 40% rely solely on staff, while 52% combine manual efforts and management tools. About three-quarters of companies that use virtualization management tools say the tools meet their needs, and 7% say the tools provide more capabilities than they need.

One way to cut the complexity of virtual environments is by running virtual and physical machines from one interface. Just over half (54%) of IT pros using virtual technology use a consolidated interface. Two-fifths of those surveyed say they transfer virtual machines between servers, and most use VMware's VMotion for such transfers.

Shutting down a virtual machine after it's no longer needed can be problematic. A quarter say they've inadvertently left running a virtual machine that should have been shut down, leaving their companies vulnerable to security attacks.

VMware's Got The Edge

Managing Multiple Vendors
38% More challenging to manage
30%Easier to manage
32% No impact
Four out of five companies using server virtualization software for Intel and AMD x86 servers are using VMware's software; a third use Microsoft Virtual Server. Of companies using servers not built on x86 Intel and AMD chips, more than a third use IBM Virtualization Engine, while a quarter use Hewlett-Packard's Virtual Server Environment.

Business technology pros prefer to buy virtualization tools from virtualization software vendors as opposed to systems management software vendors. One out of five companies use virtual machine software from more than one vendor. More than a third of companies say operating several brands of virtual machines at the same time leads to management problems. For example, VMware's VirtualCenter only manages VMware-generated virtual machines, and additional tools are needed to manage other brands of virtual machines.

Why Do ItManagement of virtual servers is bound to get easier as more tools that manage more machines become available. With so many companies focusing time and money on virtualization, vendors are certain to respond with more virtualization software options and better management tools.

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