IT, Executives Don't See Eye to Eye on Virtualization, Cloud Computing

Business and IT executives aren't always on the same page when it comes to virtualization and cloud computing.

It's no surprise that business and IT executives aren't always on the same page when it comes to virtualization and cloud computing. In some cases, however, they aren't even reading from the same book.

That's probably the most alarming conclusion from Symantec Corp.'s 2011 Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud survey.

It's especially vexing, Symantec officials say, because -- notwithstanding the hype -- both business and IT principals tend to agree that the transition to cloud is the kind of thing they can't afford to screw up.

"Moving to the cloud is a complex evolution for many companies and it's essential that IT and executives are aligned on initiatives," said John Magee, vice president of virtualization and cloud solutions with Symantec, in a statement. "Virtualization is an enabler for private and hybrid clouds and our survey shows that planning a seamless move is critical to achieving all the simplicity, affordability and efficiency that these environments have to offer."

According to the Symantec report, more than three quarters of shops mulling private or hybrid private/public cloud deployments. Not surprisingly, shops are having the most success with server virtualization, which is arguably the most mature virtualization technology.

Almost half (45 percent) of IT organizations say they've implemented server virtualization; in most cases, respondents report, server virtualization has delivered on expected ROI. Symantec's study recorded just a 4 percent gap between pre-deployment expectations and post-deployment realities.

Just over two-fifths (43 percent) of shops have likewise deployed storage virtualization technologies, but storage virtualization efforts were less likely to meet expectations. The Symantec report logs a 33 percent gap between pre-deployment expectations and post-deployment realities. Specifically, Symantec researchers write, respondents cited "disappointments [with respect to] agility, scalability and reducing operating expenditures."

The same can be said for desktop and endpoint virtualization, where the measured gap was 26 percent. Respondents recorded "disappointments in new endpoint deployment, application delivery and application compatibility," the report indicates.

Storage-as-a-Service (StaaS) has arguably been the biggest let-down for adopters. More than three quarters (77 percent) of shops are weighing potential StaaS projects, which -- once they're implemented -- tend to lag behind expected benefits by 37 percent. Many adopters bought into StaaS because of its promise to reduce the complexity of deploying and managing storage resources; fewer than half (44 percent) say they actually achieved that goal, however.

Gaps of this kind are to be expected. "Server virtualization is much more mature, as evidenced by the close match between survey respondents' pre-implementation expectations and the end results," the researchers explain. "We also see how expectations are unlikely to be matched by reality until IT organizations gain sufficient experience with these technologies to understand their potential."

On the other hand, non-IT C-level executives lack the perspective to fairly evaluate virtualization on such terms. The Symantec survey records significant gaps between the expectations -- or the prejudices -- of non-IT C-level executives and those of their IT counterparts.

For example, almost half (46 percent) of CFOs say they're less than "somewhat open" to shifting business-critical resources into private or hybrid cloud environments. A similar tally of CEOs (44 percent) expressed misgivings about such a move.

"The CFO is the most hesitant, which is interesting considering the potential for reducing expenses. The server group, by contrast, is far more willing to adopt the technology. Interestingly, even the application owner is significantly more willing to implement virtualization than the C-level executives," write Symantec researchers. "These results suggest that better communication between IT staff and executives involved in the decision-making process may allow everyone to be on the same page when it comes to understanding the potential risks and benefits offered by virtualization and cloud computing."

According to Symantec, "[W]ith a better understanding of what IT is doing, management may be more willing to approve resource requests."