It just makes sense to continue consolidation of servers. Most of the largest businesses already have but the lower tiers have a way to go to reap the unmistakable cost benefits by boosting server utilization, getting more work out of fewer machines and saving operational costs including electricity.
So far many businesses have virtualized less than a third of their physical servers, according to VMware. Gartner says 40% of servers overall have been virtualized, but that the penetration will grow to 75% in 2015 and it's for more than just costs; virtualization is a strategic asset that can improve business efficiency.
This strategy will include pooling resources into private clouds that can be supplemented by pay-per-use service-provider clouds when the need arises -- cloud bursting, says Jeremy Burton, EMC's chief marketing officer.
That will lead to more efficiency. "Let's say you're a retailer who 11 months out of the year might be able to use their own data center to do things," says Joe Weinman, segment executive for HP and founder of cloudonomics.com, "but then for one month wants to be able to double or triple or quadruple capacity." Bursting eliminates the need for resources that sit idle most of the time.
It can mean better service levels that IT departments offer to their end users, too. Businesses have access to all the compute and storage they need via cloud providers, he says.
Businesses need to forge alliances with these cloud providers. To work well private virtual infrastructure must be compatible with those in the provider's network. Businesses need to do the legwork to identify which providers make the best fit. Someday that may not be a worry, but it is now.
Service providers are trying to help. "A key trend in service providers is a shift to support better interoperability with existing enterprise virtualization infrastructures," Gartner says in its virtualization Magic Quadrant report. "In many cases, expanding their support for the same technologies that enterprises are using."
More businesses will seriously consider desktop virtualization infrastructure because the cost of implementing VDI will drop. In particular, keep an eye on Citrix and its bold claim that it will get the price of desktop virtualization below that of deploying a traditional desktop -- something that will prompt more businesses into seriously considering VDI.
Citrix says chip vendors will produce its system-on-a-chip that eliminates the multiple chips otherwise needed to support zero-client VDI endpoints, making them less expensive. The chip is optimized to boost performance of these devices and to make optimal use of available bandwidth, the company says.
Texas Instruments and NComputing helped design the chip, and NComputing says it will base a zero-client product on the chip in 2012.
"It takes cost off the table as a hindrance," says Citrix's Wes Wasson, the company's chief marketing officer.
The key thing businesses need to do is make a plan on how they're going to move from the virtualization they have to the new architectures it supports such as private, public and hybrid clouds, says Edwin Yuen, Microsoft's director of cloud and virtualization strategy. "How do you take virtualization to the next step?" he says.
Spend time creating a detailed plan that can manage all the elements of virtualization and cloud so businesses can focus on how to maximize application performance, he says. That will enable them to adapt to innovations that come along, say, new types of endpoints that connect to corporate resources, for example. "Make the right investment so you don't have to make significant changes down the road," Yuen says.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.