Virtualization Readies for the Second Half

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 24, 2009

Virtualization's function has not changed, but its perceived role is changing as it casts a wider net.

Virtually Speaking: As 2009 hits the halfway mark, virtualization seems tied with Twitter in popularity. For virtualization, however, the business value is more clear.

A recent quote sums it up nicely: "Virtualization is one of the tools or components that enable businesses to reach an operational goal."

It is, in other words, a vehicle to help get you where you want to go, not a final destination. It's also not enough to simply say "yeah, our plan is to virtualize and save some dough."

As the first half of the year comes to a close, it is becoming increasingly clear that history will likely treat 2009 as a watershed year for the virtual data center. The technology has become as pervasive as Twitter (which is more recent yet came on with an even bigger splash), with a business value that's more clear. You know a technology is mainstream when niche financial services magazines start running cover stories about it, and potential cost savings is cited at a town budget meeting. Like Twitter, it seems everywhere you look, some talk of virtualization is present.

So what does this all mean? Everything, and nothing.

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Penetration statistics vary widely, with some outfits claiming virtual penetration is in as many as 40 percent of enterprises. This is a substantial leap from 2008, when most analysts were citing penetration at 2 percent to 3 percent, with some estimates creeping into the 10 percent range.

But before one assumes that this technology has moved into the taken for granted and assumed commodity phase, bear in mind that more qualitative data is not so readily available. Of the 40 percent that have deployed virtualization it is unclear:

  • What percentage of their infrastructures are virtualized
  • To what degree mission-critical or customer-facing applications are running in a virtual environment

Answers to those questions would separate the dabblers from those who have decided to go in for the long haul. Statistics like that are difficult to measure — moving target, anyone — and easy to manipulate. It's a safe assumption, however, that there remains a long way to go.

This is not to say that virtualization is right for every application or every enterprise. It's oversimplistic and foolish to assume universal penetration is the goal, and this is where reading through vendor hype and knowing your operational goals (and having a plan to meet them) come in.

There also remains a long way to go on the vendor front. It seems every week a new company rears its head. Acquisitions, which in some cases are the reason d'etat of a company's existence, have already begun. In many cases, customers want the functionality these niche vendors offer, but they don't want a piecemeal a solution and they prefer the perceived stability of working with a larger, well-known vendor or one with which they already have a relationship.

In many cases, a smaller niche player provides a missing puzzle piece for a larger enterprise's picture that is far cheaper to buy than build, especially in a down economy. Expect an uptick in consolidations as the year wears on.

All of this, interestingly enough, is only marginally relevant to VMware vs. Hyper-V vs. Xen. That drama will continue to play out, but the next round of battles will be fought on a different front with or without them present.

Some say that cloud is the next frontier, but that's an argument best saved for a different day.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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