Virtualisation: Have We Had Our Fill?

Virtualisation continues to play a major role in the data centre, giving organisations the ability to run multiple workloads at a fraction of the cost of traditional physical services. Indeed, according to a recent IDC report more than 70% of all server workloads installed on new shipments in 2014 will reside in virtual machines. The only question remaining is: when will it become the de facto platform in all data centres?

Virtual disconnect?

A recent study found that while 91.9% of enterprises are already using virtualisation, the penetration rate of virtual servers against physical is just 39.4%. Despite this the study shows that there is a clear appetite for more, with 81.4% of enterprises saying they plan to increase their use of virtualisation.

While organisations are hungry for more, like any new technology there is always going to be some scepticism and distrust of all that virtualisation promises to do. In a separate study, it found that 44% of enterprises were avoiding using virtual machines for mission-critical applications due to data protection fears. This comes down to a lack of education around the real potential of this technology and, as the study revealed, there are a number of other factors that may be contributing to this case of virtual disconnect.

Punishment for gluttony

At its most basic, there’s a clear disconnect between the perceived and actual benefits many organisations are achieving by deploying virtualisation. The study was based on the opinions of CIOs across 544 enterprise level organisations. It revealed that at an executive management level the perceived consolidation ratio of virtual machines on physical servers is 9.8:1, significantly higher than the actual consolidation ratio of 6.3:1.

Aside from the fact that this suggests many organisations aren’t effectively measuring the ROI from virtualisation investments, there’s a strong chance that some budget holders might not see any need for further investment.

There are also some broader concerns which may be fuelling this perception versus reality conundrum. For instance, concern around the reliability of virtualisation plagues 38.8% of organisations. In addition, both application performance and backup and restoration are worrying 32.8% of enterprises each. More broadly, 30.8% are worried about their ability to effectively manage their virtual infrastructures.

These barriers to virtualisation came from a group of CIOs so it would be interesting to see if those responsible for managing the data centre would echo these concerns. There’s definitely some food for thought either way. One thing that is clear though is that organisations want more choice on their virtualisation menus.

Hypervisor à la carte

As of today, VMware remains the major hypervisor in use with 84% of organisations using their platform. This is followed by Microsoft’s Hyper-V (61%) and 55.4% using Citrix Xen. However, underneath this data VMware is not necessarily the dominant platform in some enterprises: 58% of enterprises use VMware as their primary hypervisor, 20.2% use Citrix Xen and 18.6% use Microsoft Hyper-V.

With this in mind there is a clear case for co-existence of hypervisors, most probably due to differing needs. For instance an organisation might want to use VMware for its most mission-critical applications and Hyper-V for other functions, depending on the tasks they want carried out.

All things considered, IDC’s predictions around virtualisation look all the more realistic. It will be interesting to see how other studies develop in relation to these forecasts, as it’s possible that the faster some of these issues are addressed the more chance there is that we’ll see the true potential of this technology.

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Doug Hazelman is Vice President, Product Strategy, Chief Evangelist, at Veeam Doug consults with customers, partners and industry analysts on key considerations for implementing virtual server infrastructures. He works with Veeam’s R&D team to enhance and develop new Veeam products to address market needs, and advises customers on best practices for managing virtual environments. Doug shares his expertise via the Veeam blog and other social media outlets. Doug has spoken about virtualisation management at VMworld, the Nordic Virtualization Conference, Interop, and other events including regional VMUG meetings. He is a VMware vExpert for 2011 and has also appeared on VMworld.com's "Ask the Experts." Prior to joining Veeam, Doug was an IT infrastructure consultant with Bennett Adelson. Earlier in his career he was the director of Product Management for Migration Solutions at Quest Software.