CDW Server Virtualization Study Confirms Technology's Popularity

Concerns about security and compatibility hinder greater adoption

CDW LLC, a technology products and services provider, has just released its Server Virtualization Life Cycle Report. The June 2009 study asked 387 IT executives in organizations of 100 or more employees about their experience since virtualization became popular six years ago. The study also looked at virtualization implementations and the barriers the enterprises faced in larger migrations.

The bottom line: server virtualization is maturing (more than 90 percent of those surveyed have adopted the technology in some form, and 54 say their deployment is complete). Of those reporting “fully deployed” server virtualization, 37 percent say their "industry-standard server infrastructure consists of virtual servers," CDW revealed. Nearly three-fourths of respondents (73 percent) said their organizations began using virtualized, standard servers in 2007 and 2008. (The survey defined server virtualization as "a method of running multiple, independent virtual operating systems on a single physical server" and confines its report to "industry standard" servers -- those running on Intel or AMD x86 chips.)

The barriers to further adoption cited most often were concerns about security and worries about compatibility between hardware or mission-critical software applications and their virtualization platform. Some respondents said virtualization hasn't been used more because they are uncertain which applications and servers are suitable candidates for the technology. CDW says most virtualization plans capture only the "low-hanging fruit."

“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,” said Scott Severson, director of CDW’s server and storage solutions practice, in a release. “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.”

Respondents said that their IT environment is virtualization-friendly, and most reported that they have the "necessary policies and staff in place for successful virtualization implementation." In fact, that technology has become the standard: 89 percent of survey participants said their company requires network users prove that a software application being evaluated "does not work in a virtual environment before the company will buy a dedicated server to support it."

A whopping 99 percent of respondents said their CIO or IT director merits a "passing grade" in the technology -- 29 percent deserve an A, 49 percent deserve a B -- and 85 percent of respondents "believe their IT department is appropriately staffed and trained to manage a virtualized server environment."

Initiatives where the technology is being applied include server consolidation (71 percent), infrastructure management (68 percent), and disaster recovery/operational continuity (59 percent).

What's holding organizations back? CDW says "no single concern dominates;" the leading constraint keeping their organizations from expanding virtualization is concern about the security of these environments (17 percent of respondents) -- organizations that have only partially deployed virtualized servers are twice as likely to worry about security. Another 17 percent said their hardware won't support the technology, and 62 percent say some applications should not run on virtual servers "because of the criticality of the data and the applications’ functions."

Twelve percent reported being uncertain about the ROI of server virtualization, but 95 percent whose companies have implemented virtualization said they are saving money: 46 percent are tracking their savings, 22 percent aren't, and 27 percent are unsure of the exact amount, claiming it's too soon to tell. Metrics used include IT productivity, business agility/adaptability/flexibility, and IT energy consumption/costs.

A copy of the report is available at http://www.cdw.com/virtualizationlifecycle; a short registration is required.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).