Virtualization winning hearts amid business barriers

Perceived cost and complexity dog new infrastructure paradigm

IT leaders are embracing virtualization for greater good but hurdles still remain if the technology is going to fulfil its promise of simplified infrastructure management.

A recent Computerworld survey, in conjunction with Sydney-based analyst firm Hydrasight, revealed an almost equal split between organizations using or considering server virtualization and those who are not.

In the open comment section of the survey early adopters championed the benefits of virtualization, with a consensus the technology reduced the number of physical servers, enabled better infrastructure flexibility and DR capability, and lowered server TCO.

Among the anonymous responses were tales of overall improvements in infrastructure management.

"It has reduced the overall number of servers required, providing us savings in capital expenditure and [it] frees up time for IT to manage systems," one respondent wrote.

Another claimed virtualization has been "extremely beneficial as it is a very cost effective way of adding new servers without having to continuously justify capital".

"It also provides a way of improving the way systems are backed up and shortens recovery time in the event of failure," the same respondent wrote.

However, when asked what the most significant barriers are to the adoption of virtualization, a lot of questions surfaced over cost and business justification.

One respondent cited "initial cost", and "not overwhelming" official third-party operating system and application support, and the "inability to prove ROI".

Others just cried "cost", "cost", and "cost".

Another inhibitor is a "lack of understanding" of the technology and whether that will translate to security and DR "complications".

Such uncertainty may explain why a whopping 42 percent of respondents said their organization has no plans to adopt server virtualization in the coming 12 months to two years.

Hydrasight managing director Michael Warrilow said the virtualization market may be polarized between those who have benefited greatly and those who have not touched it, but that does not necessarily mean adoption isn't growing rapidly.

"Polarized maybe a strong term because it's just happening so fast," Warrilow said. "With 43 percent using it in some fashion, and another 20 percent planning to in the next 12 months, that's very rapid in the business world."

Warrilow said if the same survey was done a year ago "it would be very different".

According to Warrilow, inefficient use of server infrastructure will invariably drive virtualization adoption, with utilization rates as low as one server per 30 employees.

"Why do people accept that? Is it to do with Windows scalability?"

When asked how many servers does the organization have, the survey revealed when the organization's size got to over 1000 employees utlization actually got worse going down to one in 25.

"There is clearly no greater economy of scale in a large enterprise in terms of getting more bang for buck out of servers," Warrilow said. "Reducing hardware is the primary reason they have gone to virtualization - their server fleet is growing."

Reduction in software costs and "the green factor" were among the lowest drivers for virtualization.

"Just because they have adopted it doesn't mean they have virtualized everything," Warrilow said. "Not everyone is going to virtualize everything and 50 percent is an aggressive target. It's around 10 to 30 percent for most orgs."

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