Server Virtualization Now Mainstream: Yankee Group

by Sunil Kumar    Jul 20, 2006

Virtualization as a technology is not new. The late 90s saw companies finding new uses for their mainframes via virtual machines. A virtual machine is a framework or methodology of dividing physical resources of a single computer into multiple execution environments.

Server virtualization, however, has gained ground in the past few years. Microsoft, after acquiring Connectix in 2003, included virtualization as a key component in its server offerings. This can be viewed as part of an overall virtualization trend in enterprise IT that includes storage virtualization, network virtualization, and workload management. This is just one component in the development of autonomic computing, where the server environment will be able to manage itself based on perceived activity.

Server virtualization is seen as a likely requirement for both utility computing, where computer processing power will be utility that clients can pay when needed, and the overall growth of grid computing, which will be further used in commercial databases, genome research and astronomy.

The Yankee Group 2006 Global Server Virtualization Survey by Laura DiDio, Research Fellow - Application Infrastructure& Software Platforms, and George Hamilton, Director - Enterprise Communications and Networking has revealed that three out of four businesses or 76% of companies already use or plan to deploy the technology. The survey was web-based, it self selected corporate users in late May and early 2006. The independent survey had polled more than 700 IT managers and C-level executives across a wide variety of vertical and horizontal business spanning the globe.

Findings of the report include:

* 62% of respondents mentioned that they have deployed or are in the process of migrating to a server virtualization offering
* 23% of respondents mentioned that they would do so within the next 3-12 months, and
* 15% of respondents had no definite migration timetable.

The survey also highlighted that VMWare is the clear market leader with 55% of the installed base, which includes VMWare ESX and GSX offerings and Microsoft’s Virtual Server is second with 29% market share. All other server virtualization server providers include open source. XEN Source XenOptimiser built into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE are niche market solutions that each have only about 1% market share. However, each of these smaller virtualization vendors - most notably XenSource and SWSoft’s Virtuozzo have a strong devoted customer base. The survey also found that till date only 14% of businesses have not yet chosen a server virtualization vendor.

Microsoft is launching a serious server virtualization effort with the launch of Hypervisor software for Windows Server Longhorn, in 2007. Gates said that Hypervisor would incorporate powerful new multi-CPU virtualization capabilities.

One of the most startling results of the survey was the revelation that approximately 25% to 30% of organizations, midsize corporations with more than 500 end-users and large enterprises with more than 1,000 end users, plan to use more than one server virtualization solution. The survey also revealed that rapid RoI is the ability to get a technology up and running in a production environment in a reasonable time frame.

The survey also indicated that server virtualization migrations have become extremely swift. 61 of the respondents informed that they deployed the technology in a period ranging from one week to one month. Also, a high proportion of respondents cited disaster recovery as one of the most compelling reasons behind a server virtualization initiative.

Yankee Group has also given recommendations for the software vendors. Some of them are:

* Clear articulation of strategy, including aftermarket service and support as well as a strategy for multicore
* Explain your pricing model
* Provide comprehensive documentation.

The study states that corporate customers should tap the full potential of virtualization technology in the same manner as any component of their network infrastructure. Some recommendations for corporate customers include:

* Thoroughly research all available server virtualization offerings
* Know what’s on your network
* Make a detailed migration plan
* Perform a thorough TCO review of your network infrastructure and make a 5-year plan, and
* Allocate CPU utilization on virtualization servers and software, according to the business and application needs.