VIRTUALIZATION WILL BE THE BIGGEST DRIVER FOR IT INFRASTRUCTURE and operations spending over the next several years, according to a report from Gartner Inc.

The research firm called virtualization the “highest-impact trend” for IT through 2012, predicting it will determine how IT administrators manage, buy, deploy and plan their future strategies. And it won’t just be the major enterprises that jump on the virtualization bandwagon either.

“Most of the growth for virtualization thus far has been in the [large] enterprises,” said Phillip Lawson, vice-president and analyst at Gartner. “VMware has been fairly monolithic in its success, but we think as Microsoft enters we’re going to see the mid-range and smaller enterprises really open up and adopt virtualization.”

The driving factor behind the growth will be server virtualization, which the research firm said contributed to a four per cent drop in the x86 server market in 2006. The report states that about 90 per cent of the server market is composed of x86 architecture servers. Based on the traditional model of one application per server, Gartner said, roughly 80 to 90 per cent of server computing capacity is unutilized.

Gartner analysts also predict that more than four million virtual machines will be installed on x86 servers by next year, which is almost as many virtual PCs in operation today.

“Once customers start using it for consolidation, they quickly realize how powerful this technology is; and something that started as a tool can soon become critical architecture,” noted David Lynch, vice-president of marketing at Ottawa-based Embotics Corp. — By Rafael Ruffolo