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Slowdown in Virtualization

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A 2010 survey suggests that companies have slowed their efforts to virtualize their data centers. The survey was conducted by InformationWeek and is the second in an annual series. The key finding: almost 20% fewer companies expect to have 25-49% of their servers virtualized by 2011 and almost 10% fewer companies expect to virtualize 50-74% of their servers.

A year ago, companies were motivated to virtualize their data centers in order to consolidate servers, obtain operational flexibility, save power, save space, enhance disaster recovery options, and assure high availability. Optimism was high: 54% of companies surveyed by InformationWeek expected to virtualize between 50% and 90+ percent of their servers, with another 53% planning to virtualize up to half of their servers. Only 1% of companies reported to virtualization plans. Motivations for virtualization have changed very little in the past year. The most significant increase was in the desire for operational flexibility and agility. Using virtualization as a means to save power dropped by 5%: somewhat curious given the economy and the growing commitment to green computing.

Companies were asked about the effect of virtualization on IT's ability to deliver on business goals. The mean average (reporting scale - '1' significantly impaired, 2.5 no change, and '5' significantly improved) for the top and bottom three goals:

  • high availability of applications and services - 3.9
  • disaster recovery - 3.8
  • deploy new services, faster - 3.8
  • self-provisioning by business units - 3.3
  • fewer IT staff in data center - 3.2
  • charge business units for IT - 3.1


Perhaps the most interesting result reported by the survey concerned return on investment. Only 30% of companies claimed to be measuring ROI, but 83% of those claimed that virtualization was "paying off nicely." Seventy percent of companies are not measuring ROI, but 87% of them "feel we are getting our money's worth."

Companies deeply involved in virtualization report several concerns. The top three:

  • The number one concern was the ability of existing data center management tools to reach virtual environments.
  • A close second, is the ability to monitor application performance.
  • Virtual machine life-cycle management and uncontrolled generation of VMs - virtual machine sprawl is the third major concern.


The InformationWeek survey is corroborated by a Gartner Group survey that reports only 16% of data center loads are virtualized. The slower than expected progress towards the virtual data center appears to reflect an awareness by CIOs that the costs of virtualization can be "staggering" and the benefits "less than certain."

The reasons are legion. The ability to easily generate virtual machines tends to lead to a willingness to do more, and soon the IT manager finds virtual machine sprawl on his hands. As concentration builds up, performance and management problems emerge. Monitoring systems need to check not only whether a virtual machine is running, but also whether resources allocated match the VM's needs. ... Then as the number of virtual machines per host server increases, I/O problems start to develop.


Recognizing that I/O is a main virtualization checkpoint, numerous vendors have responded with solutions. Cisco and VMWare have built a network "fabric" offered via its Unified Computing System. HP provides the BladeSystem Matrix; and third party vendor, Xsigo, offers its I/O Director. Others are attempting to virtualize the I/O, move it from the hypervisor's virtual switch and embed I/O onto a hardware device capable of separating and routing packets according to their storage or network destinations.

Like all promising technological advances, virtualization was introduced with great expectations, expectations that have been tempered somewhat by experience. As your organization has moved to exploit virtual technology, has your experience lived up to your expectations.


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