Security Issues Temper Virtualization Craze

By Larry Barrett (Send Email)
Posted Jan 13, 2010

IT consulting services and equipment provider CDW on Tuesday served up some statistics that indicate that while enterprise customers recognize the inherent financial and energy savings derived from virtualization, they're still a bit gun-shy when it comes to virtualizing their most critical applications and data repositories. While 90 percent of enterprises surveyed by CDW have virtualized portions of their datacenters, 62 percent are still keeping "critical" apps on physical servers.

This week, CDW released its Server Virtualization Life Cycle Report, an extensive examination and survey of just how mature the virtualization market has become -- or not -- in the past decade.

A total of 387 information technology executives and companies took part in the survey, with results that revealed both their the appreciation for the benefits that virtualization software can deliver and their apprehension to commit their most vital data runs to a technology that's still viewed as a work in progress.

"Server virtualization was one of the most important data center developments of the past decade, with organizations embracing it enthusiastically for its benefits in cost, IT productivity, business agility and resilience," Scott Severson, director of CDW's server and storage solutions group, said in a statement. "What we found in this study, consistent with what we see in our customers' experiences, is that most adopters have captured the low-hanging fruit and are building their trust in virtualization platforms as they consider how to capture more of virtualization's promise."

To wit: Organizations with more than 100 employees have implemented virtualization software and processes "at some level" but still only 37 percent of their data and applications are running on virtualized servers.

And while 54 percent of these companies have completed their virtualization deployments, respondents said concerns about the security of virtualized environments preventing in-house IT honchos from abandoning their physical servers entirely in favor of software applications that can reduce their overall datacenter footprints by as much as 90 percent.

A full 17 percent of the 387 IT executives surveyed said security was the main reason they haven't transitioned much of their business-critical applications to virtualized serves, while another 17 percent said their hardware still doesn't support virtualization applications.

More telling, 62 percent confessed that despite all the well-documented benefits of virtualization -- particularly the reduction in energy consumption, the ease of configuring and managing servers and the freeing of cash to pursue other IT projects -- they still have a ton of applications that they don't feel comfortable running on virtual servers because of the criticality of the data and applications' functions.

This somewhat schizophrenic outlook is reflected by the fact that 89 percent of those surveyed said they employ a "virtualization first" strategy -- a requirement that network users first prove a new application doesn't work in a virtual environment before the company will buy a dedicated server to support it.

Also, 99 percent of those queried said they give their CTO a passing grade in their adoption and implementation of virtualization technology, and 85 percent said they believe their IT departments are appropriately staffed and trained to manage a virtualized server environment.

However, for some enterprise IT managers, it's still not enough.

"Anything drastically related to secure information, I haven't been comfortable with total changeover of payroll and other similar applications just yet," one respondent said.

Despite the apprehension, 95 percent of businesses that have implemented virtualization believe they are saving significant money as a result, and 94 percent are measuring their success in terms of IT productivity, business agility and reductions in IT energy consumption.

"IT organizations continue to face immense cost pressures and productivity demands from their internal clients," Severson added. "Based upon the successes and benefits they have already seen from server virtualization, we expect continued, steady expansion of virtualized environments as user trust builds and the software vendor community adapts to serve customer demand."

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at, the news service of the network.

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