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Virtualisation Moves On To Conquer Networks And Desktops

With claimed annual savings of £2500 per server and £78 per desktop, virtualisation is moving on to conquer networks and desktops, say reports.

Virtualisation is driving IT innovation and is predicted to be a $19 billion (£11.5bn) technology market, and reports say companies in the field are preparing for the next stages – desktop and network virtualisation. 

Virtualisation appeals to businesses because it increases capacity, makes more effective use of resources and reduces costs, says a report by industry analysts Business Insights. It also enables companies to become more sustainable.

“Eighty percent of organisations have already adopted some form of virtualisation,” said Steve O’Donnell, managing director of the Enterprise Strategy Group, at a data centre round table event earlier this month. “Recognising that having loads of servers running at five percent utilisation is a waste, virtualisation has become a key driver for energy efficiency.”

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Server consolidation can yield a saving of £2 million over three years for an organisation running 250 dual-core servers, according to the Business Insights report (roughly equivalent to £2600 per server per year). Companies can also make annual savings of around £78,000 for every 1,000 PCs they run, by moving from a full desktop PCs infrastructure to a server-hosted desktop virtualisation solution.

As well as cost savings, a virtualisation strategy can help businesses cut greenhouse gas emission and prepare for the impending Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) legislation, as it consolidates existing assets and reduces the demand for hardware which consumes high levels of energy.

Now that the the server and storage virtualisation markets are fairly well established, desktop and application virtualisation represent the next growth opportunities, according to Business Insights’ report. Desktop and application streaming will become key components in the way most IT service providers deliver virtual desktops and applications to end users over the next few months.

Much of the technology is not yet fully mature or robust, and the technology is unlikely to become widespread before 2010. However, Business Insights predicts that as many as 16 million desktops could be virtualised by 2011.

Network virtualisation is another area that is likely to make significantly leaps over the next two years, as software products gain assistance from developments at the chip and server bus level. Charles Ferland, vice president of EMEA at Blade Network Technologies, said “If you are going to be running thousands of virtual machines that can move around the enterprise then you need to instil the same level of agility into the network. If the servers are going to be running at 90 percent capacity then the infrastructure needs to scale to give the same level of bandwidth and performance.

“Admittedly network virtualisation is a lot more complicated than server virtualisation, but if 98 percent of enterprises are claiming to have virtualised servers, it’s only a question of time before virtualisation in all its forms becomes commoditised,” he added.

With such a widespread interest in the potential of virtualisation to reduce energy wastage and costs throughout IT infrastructures, the virtualisation market is turning into a competitive landscape. VMware is currently the most successful vendor in the enterprise server virtualisation market, but Xen, Citrix and Microsoft have all also been working on solutions that endorse virtualisation and provide end users with choice and flexibility.

Brian Peterson, VP of International Operations at Emulex, warned that vendors have to be aware of this competition and be flexible in their outlook. “Today I’m using this product but tomorrow I may want to use something else, so it’s important to look at a network vendor who can be agnostic and uses open standards to provide the data centre customer with future proof connectivity,” he said.

The comparatively new field of desktop virtualisation is open to new and smaller players: French virtualisation specialist Systancia has announced a product that includes both application and desktop virtualisation, managed by a web console. AppliDis Fusion 4 moves Windows applications and desktops into the company’s data centre and is designed to cut costs.

“In the average organisation, the cost of managing a single desktop can be as much as £1,000 a year, taking into account maintenance, security, back-ups of data and updating applications,” said Systancia’s founder and president Christophe Corne in a statement. “With desktop virtualisation, these operations are centralised to help organisations to save 40 to 70 percent on their operational and management costs.”