2010: The Year of Virtualizing Securely

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jan 13, 2010

It is a widely held belief that large enterprises are more willing to take a chance on new technologies. Afterall, they have the cash and expertise. Small outfits, on the other hand, are also prime candidates, as they often have the nimbleness and the need to seek out more creative solutions.

Virtually Speaking: Two sets of survey results released this week point to security as the next major hurdle for virtualization.

If the results released Monday of Symantec's annual data center survey are to be believed, neither of these groups is at the cutting edge of data center technologies. Instead, a third group gets those honors — the often overlooked midsize enterprises.

Symantec believes midsize enterprises are driving the adoption of buzz-worthy technologies at this time, virtualization and cloud computing among them. The survey found technology initiative adoption rates 11 percent to 17 percent higher in midsize enterprises than in their small or large counterparts.

Mathew Lodge, senior director of product marketing, Symantec Information Management Group, described this newfound sweet spot to ServerWatch as the "Goldilocks zone." Large enterprises, he explained, may have deep pockets, but they also have more complex needs and thus take longer to evaluate new technologies. Smaller enterprises, meanwhile, lack the resources.

Symantec defines midsize enterprises as those with between 2,000 and 9,999 employees. They comprised 23 percent of 1,780 survey respondents, Lodge said. Of the remainder, 62 percent of respondents were from larger businesses and 16 percent were from small shops.

While the survey results are interesting from numerous angles (particularly with regard to staffing), from the perspective of this column, what is most interesting is where virtualization sits in terms of priority and adoption.

Virtualization experience was among the top-three sought-after skills for new employees. The other two important skill sets were were networking and security expertise. Virtualization was not, however, among the top three for key initiatives to be undertaken this year. Here, security, backup and recovery, and continuous data protection surpassed it. Fourth place, while hardly shabby, isn't nearly as exciting as being front and center.

Has virtualization lost its luster? Far from it. In some ways, it is a victim of its own success. After years of being among the top-three initiatives, it makes sense that the pace of adoption has slacked a bit. Especially considering nearly 90 percent of midsize enterprises surveyed now have some level of virtualization in place, and small and large organizations have more than 75 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

Virtualization has arrived as a mainstream technology. Efforts are under way in enough organizations that the collective priority is figuring out how to deal with the resulting complexities that increase with it. Thus, the focus has shifted from the technology itself to its implications. Virtualization changes how an enterprise handles disaster recovery, backup (and other storage needs) and security.

Consider this finding:

Virtual machine protection continues to be a focus for enterprises, with 82 percent of enterprises considering virtual machine technologies in 2010. Respondents cited granular recovery within virtual machine images as the biggest challenge in virtual machine data protection.

In other words, the technology has a foothold, now the emphasis has shifted to assimilating it into the enterprise.

Symantec, of course, is not the only vendor surveying virtualization behavior. IT consulting services and equipment provider CDW this week released its Server Virtualization Life Cycle Report, an assessment of how mature the virtualization market is.

It, too, found security to be major concern. Of the 387 IT executives surveyed, 17 percent cited security as the main reason for not transitioning business-critical applications to virtualized serves.

CDW also found that although organizations with more than 100 employees have implemented virtualization software and processes, they have virtualized only 37 percent of their data and apps. There is much room for growth within enterprises.

Put all of this data together the takeaway is fairly straightforward: For virtualization to live up to the hype and meet enterprise expectations, security must take center stage. If enterprises are as committed to the advantages of virtualization as they say they are, then 2010 could well turn out to be the year where virtual security takes center stage.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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