Survey: Interest in server virtualization overstated

Server virtualization may be enterprise computing's latest technology, but a recent survey of corporate IT buyers shows that near-term adoption may not match the hype.

According to an August survey of IT decision-makers by Sage Research, 38 percent say they plan to deploy server virtualization technology within the next year. However, according to Chris Neal, head of the technology practice at Sage, the percentage of organizations that will actually follow through on those plans is likely about half that figure, or less than 20 percent.

Neal said the results are "inflated" due to factors out of the decision-makers' control, primarily whether they will get the needed funding from their organizations.

Moreover, other results of the survey, which involved 265 IT decision-makers at companies with 500 or more employees, show that organizations that are already using server virtualization or that are interested in the technology are doing so mostly to increase efficiency and utilization of their servers (84 percent) and lower data center costs (72 percent) -- the basic and successful marketing mantra espoused by current market leader VMware.

Only 28 percent of respondents said they were interested in server virtualization to support a shift to utility computing, while 45 percent said they were interested in more easily supporting multiple operating systems, and 51 percent were interested in increasing processing capabilities.

The lower interest in features outside of basic cost reduction and efficiency gain is coupled with little evidence of interest in cutting-edge alternative approaches to server virtualization.

Eighteen percent of respondents said they were "very familiar" with chip-assisted virtualization technology, such as Intel's VT or Advanced Micro Devices's AMD-V. Meanwhile, a third of respondents claimed to be "very familiar" with either hardware-assisted virtualization, which promises to offer faster performance than VMware's more software-heavy approach, or open-source virtualization software such as Xen, Open VZ or Virtual Iron.

That suggests that for now, VMware has less to fear from upstarts than the reporting in the technology press may make it appear, Neal said.

"It's a classic technology adoption pattern: a ton of buzz, followed by not much activity, and then more sales several years later. Virtualization is not immune from it," Neal said. "From this survey, we're not seeing a lot of people actively researching and evaluating new technologies. It's still mostly an opportunistic buy: 'Hey, I need to buy a new server, so I might as well take a look at virtualization.'"

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