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Beware Of Over-Optimism About Virtualisation

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Virtualisation is harder than you think, warns Peter Judge

I don’t normally doubt the opinions of TechWeekEurope readers. I know from your responses to this site, that you are an engaged and interested community of tech professionals, but your views on virtualisation have made me think.

Most of us are well aware of the benefits of virtualisation. It allows IT to consolidate workload storage and traffic in a data centre and can make a serious impact on the efficiency and expense of IT. It’s been around for several years now and the benefits are well-rehearsed. Virtualisation, along with the assumption of good network connectivity, is also the foundation of the cloud.

What do the numbers show?

So you might assume the work is done and we are all virtualised – but if you assumed that, you might well be wrong. We’ve had some strong indications that there are serious barriers to getting all your servers virtualised, and this is hampering businesses from getting a good kick-off into the cloud. And this Wednesday (29 February), we are holding a web seminar on how to get through the barrier and get the benefits of virtualisation.

We have seen research that shows the biggest group of companies have between 10 and 50 percent of their servers virtualised, and it tails off above that. Analyst Clive Longbottom will talk more about it in the webinar, but it seems to show that more and more users are starting out towards virtualisation, but many are not getting very far towards full virtualisation.

Now, we don’t want to spoil Clive’s thunder, so we ran a quick poll on TechWeekEurope this week to see if it backed up what he said. To our surprise, while there are substantial numbers in the middle part of the range, fully half the respondents (and we had about 450 clicks in a very short space of time) claim to have more than 90 percent of their servers virtualised.

The result surprised us, but perhaps it reflects on our readership. An earlier poll found that many of our readers work in big companies – the majority work in firms bigger than 1000 people, and a surprisingly high number work in organisations bigger than 10,000. It is often found that virtualisation is more advanced in large firms, and small-to-medium businesses are struggling.

It’s also possible, I believe, that many people overestimate their firm’s progress. To move all your applications to virtual servers is a big thing. The hardware must support virtualisation, and the management software must be able to provision and control those virtual servers as reliably as a set of physical machines.

It also takes new skills, and those skills can be expensive – although the industry is making virtual environments as simple as possible to manage.

I believe our poll showed very clearly what readers’ aspirations are. It may also be reality for those in large organisations with forward-thinking IT departments. But I believe the rest of us have a lot to learn to get the best out of virtualisation.

I hope you will join me on Wednesday – or catch the webcast later in recorded form.