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VMWorld Survey Highlights Real-World Practices

Results from a survey of attendees at the VMworld Summit last week paint an interesting picture of current virtualization practices -- at least among the 200 participants.

To no one's surprise, 58 percent of conference attendees reported having virtualized at least half of their physical servers; only 39 percent had done so last year. However, virtualization of business-critical applications isn't rising as fast -- only 35 percent of respondents run at least half of such apps on virtual servers, compared to 31 percent doing so in 2009. Holding them back: performance concerns and security were the top IT-related reasons; a lack of company and senior IT leadership support topped business reasons.

The survey also found that two-thirds (66 percent) of those deploying SANs with VMware use Fibre Channel SANs for their primary storage.

One-third of survey takers (34 percent) have implemented a private-cloud architecture; nearly a quarter (23 percent) plan to do so in the next year, but 43 percent have no private cloud plans.

The results show that "companies are increasingly motivated to virtualize applications for cost savings and business agility reasons," Len Rosenthal, vice president of marketing for Virtual Instruments, said in a statement, "but even with all the benefits of virtualization, performance concerns continue to be a significant stumbling block to virtualizing business critical applications, which are inherently I/O-intensive. ... There remains an essential requirement for SAN I/O performance monitoring and optimization solutions that to enable companies to virtualize business critical applications with confidence."

One thing's clear: virtualization environments are constantly changing. When asked how frequently changes such as virtual machines were added or deleted, over half (55 percent) said changes occur multiple times each day.

When deciding whether to virtualize critical workloads, 40 percent claim that time to deployment and cost were driving factors. When they do virtualize these workloads, 86 percent of companies consolidate mixed workloads (such as Web and database tasks) and notice greater security risks when they do. Security is the responsibility of the virtual-infrastructure administrators or network operations staff, not security admins, in nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of enterprises.

It's no wonder, then, that over a third (34 percent) put "unified management for physical and virtual network security" at the top of their list of security concerns.

“We’re seeing the majority of enterprises virtualizing their mission-critical workloads concurrently with efforts to find the best way to secure them,” said Johnnie Konstantas, a frequent contributor to ESJ's Enterprise Strategies newsletter and vice president of marketing for Altor, a virtualized data centers and cloud security provider. “The responses are at times surprising in that they reveal workloads at great risk as a result of virtualization and organizations earnest in mitigating that risk as soon as possible.”

When it comes to virtualizing an organization's lifeline -- e-mail -- the survey asked if (and which layers of) a company's e-mail infrastructure had been virtualized. Over half (56 percent) of companies have performed the migration; 38 percent said the mail store layer (in MS Exchange and Lotus Notes, among others) was the most frequent component to be moved, followed by e-mail archiving solutions (21 percent) and the gateway filtering layer (18 percent).

What benefits were considered in the migration decision? According to 59 percent of respondents, an increase in server utilization (which improves the efficiency of message delivery) topped the list, followed by high availability/failover support (which ensures message delivery). However, 45 percent said performance/throughput was the top possible limitation they weighed before migrating; security risks came in second.

The good news is that expected benefits from e-mail infrastructure migration are being realized in most cases -- 87 percent said they met or exceeded their goals when it came to improving server utilization and realizing higher availability and failover support.

Stephanie Nevin,

Sendmail's vice president of marketing and business development, said the survey was in line with "what many of our Global 2000 customers have experienced when considering moving components of their e-mail infrastructure to a virtualized environment. While many companies are turning to virtualized solutions to cut messaging infrastructure costs and improve operations, they struggle with achieving their messaging virtualization goals because often times the performance and security risks overshadow the potential benefits."

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted by Jim Powell on 09/07/2010 at 11:53 AM