Data centre virtualization increasingly popular, report says


Going virtual is becoming a real answer for data centre managers, according to a survey of large and small businesses.

Fifty-one percent of North American companies are either testing virtualization technology in their data centers or have already deployed it, according to a report released Friday by Forrester Research Inc.

Use of virtualization is less in Europe (35 percent either testing or deploying it) and Asia-Pacific (21 percent), but generally growing nonetheless.

Forrester compared results of a 2006 survey to a similar one in 2005 in which 41 percent of companies in North America, 30 percent in Europe and 23 percent in Asia-Pacific were using or testing virtualization. Although the Asia-Pacific number is lower in 2006 than 2005, Forrester notes the survey sample was smaller there than in the other regions.

Whether or not they are using virtualization, interest in or even just awareness of virtualization grew in all geographic regions in 2006 from 2005.

Virtualization refers to dynamic management of a company’s total information technology infrastructure. The most common use of virtualization is in the operation of x86 servers in data centers. Virtualization makes it possible to run multiple software applications and operating systems simultaneously on one physical server. The result is that instead or running at only 15 percent to 20 percent of capacity, when one server runs only one application, servers can run at 80 percent to 90 percent of capacity. Thus, a company could spend less money buying servers.

Although virtualization is more likely embraced by large enterprises, awareness of it by SMBs (small-to-medium businesses) is growing at a faster rate, the survey showed. Awareness of virtualization by Global 2000 large enterprises grew to 92 percent in 2006 from 87 percent in 2005. But awareness by medium-to-large business jumped to 86 percent from 60 percent, and by small-to-medium businesses to 83 percent from 62 percent.

Server virtualization software company VMware Inc. remains the dominant provider. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed would consider VMware for virtualization, versus just 9 percent for Microsoft’s Virtual Server product. Only one respondent mentioned the open-source Xen virtualization software as a choice while just six mentioned Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris operating system, whose virtualization feature is called Containers.

EMC Corp., which operates VMware as a subsidiary, announced plans this week to launch an initial public offering of VMware stock.

Microsoft, which introduced its Virtual Server product in 2004, is expected to launch an updated version later this year.

Forrester surveyed 1,267 enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, and 503 SMBs with 100 to 999 employees for its report.