After the Server Virtualization Tipping Point

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Sep 30, 2010


More on server virtualization

In April, IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Tracker reported that 18.2 percent of all new servers shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009 were virtualized. More significant than that though was the prediction (made that same week at Interop In Las Vegas) that "2010 will be the first year in which the number of deployed virtual servers will outnumber the number of physical ones>"

Six months ago, IDC said new virtual servers will exceed physical server purchases in 2010. This week, Gartner said only 25 percent of all server workloads will be in a virtual machines this year. Can both be correct? Dell hopes so.

This is a significant data point, as it indicates how mainstream virtualization is. Think about it: Most organizations buy at least one server a year. Thus, most enterprises will at least dabble in Virtualization. Many, we know, will more than dabble.

IDCs rosy picture of breadth may have been darkened a bit this week, however, when Gartner weighed in on the depth side, noting that although more than 80 percent of enterprises have virtualization programs or projects in place, it anticipates, "only 25 percent of all server workloads will be in a virtual machine (VM) by year-end 2010."

Gartner (NYSE: IT) also reports that many execs may be under the misconception that they have virtualized their x86 servers, but they must plan for two to three times the growth of virtualization in their portfolios, estimating "approximately 90 percent of the server market is composed of x86 architecture servers, but based on a traditional model of one application per server, roughly 80 to 90 percent of the x86 computing capacity is unused at any time. Virtualization promises to unlock much of this underutilized capacity."

While "only" 25 percent of workloads might seem impressive, considering x86 virtualization is barely a decade old, it also speaks volumes of how far it still has to go.

In that vein, on Wednesday Dell announced the Virtual Integrated System (VIS) architecture, which is designed to put the "functionality of tools where surveys indicate people will want to use them," Director of Enterprise Strategy Matt Baker told ServerWatch.

With its three components VIS Self-Service Creator, VIS Director and Advanced Infrastructure Manager, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) will deliver "new level of converged operations at the workload and infrastructure layer" when the products ship, Baker said.

Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) abstracts the hardware and virtualization layers from the data center resulting in a single interface for server, storage and network resource allocation. VIS Self-Service Creator standardizes and automates application are deployment through a web-based portal, accomplishing the paradox of increasing IT control while accelerating IT processes. Other components are available today. VIS Director is not yet available. Baker said Dell expects to make a preview of the analytics software to be available soon, providing customers with insight into virtual dependencies, advanced reporting, what-if and trend analysis, capacity and utilization reporting and cost allocation and charge back solutions.

You don't get more industry standard than Dell, so the fact that it is bringing functionality up until now available as either a soup-to-nuts solution (such as Cisco's UCS offering) or to the high end (as is the case with HP Virtual Connect) is fairly groundbreaking. Two years in and several accusations in the making, it represents a significant shift for Dell. Not only is it its largest software undertaking to date, in terms of value and scope, Baker said, but it carries with it "no major dependencies at the hardware layer." In other words, you don't need to have a Dell box to run it.

The server room is rapidly changing. It is heterogeneous all around, from hypervisor choice to the hardware. Dell's decoupling the software from the hardware may well expand the OEM's presence, and it just might result in virtualized servers breaking the 25 percent barrier.

Amy Newman is the senior 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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