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Think everyone is virtualizing? Think again

Some IT shops still haven't virtualized, according to a recent survey by Focus. In this article, we explore the most common protests and debunk most of those arguments.

With all the buzz and press coverage given to server virtualization, it seems that by now everyone should have implemented virtualization to at least some degree. With the no-brainer return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits of consolidation in large enterprise shops, and the more recent wave of virtualization implementations for disaster recovery (DR) in small-to-medium shops, hasn't everyone jumped on the bandwagon?

According to our recent FOCUS Virtualization Survey (Virtualization Management: User Survey Report) of over 250 companies, roughly 80% of responding companies are using server virtualization in production, with a total of roughly 95% either in production or in the planning process.

In what is generally a rarity in IT, IT professionals report that their virtualization implementations have actually delivered on the host of promises made by vendors. As our report says:

When asked what actual benefits have been achieved from the virtualization implementation, the top benefits reported were increased utilization of resources; reduced power, space, and cooling; reduced total cost of ownership for servers; and increased return on investment for servers. These financial accomplishments in particular are a key reason why virtualization projects are continuing to get funded and move forward, despite the tight budgets and strict financial controls in this tough economy.

So if virtualization is so wonderful, what's keeping the remaining 5-9% from joining the team? Are there organizations that, for whatever reason, should not be virtualizing (now or ever), or are these shops just the ultra conservative, very late adopters?

Not enough time
The number one reason given by roughly half of this group was not enough time. This is definitely a sign of the times. With recent budget cuts, layoffs, and lack of new hiring, many IT professionals are being asked to do the work that was previously done by multiple people. Everyone is stretched and there aren't enough hours in the day.

The problem of course is not having enough time to drain the swamp, because all of your time is being spent wrestling the alligators. If you can find the time to do the thing that will help you, the things that are taking up your time will get easier. Once virtualization is implemented, many tasks become easier and demand less time, like provisioning new servers and applications and managing software images and updates. In addition, virtualization saves real dollars, which can be spent on additional staff, if that's what's really needed. Virtualization typically offers great ROI, and smart managers will figure out a way to drain the swamp.

Need more information before deciding
This is a variation on not enough time, but at least acknowledges that a decision should be made. This group overlaps with those who say they are in the planning stage. Getting up-to-date information is important, especially with the recent changes in the hypervisor landscape, where there are now multiple viable alternatives, rather than the assumption that VMware is the only real choice. At this point the options should be analyzed and the decision should be when and how to implement virtualization, not if.

It costs too much
Anyone who gave this answer should be forcefully put in the previous category, and should get more information. First of all, there are numerous options for server virtualization that come at no additional charge (Hyper-V, XenServer, and ESXi are now all free). Yes there is time involved, but there are new options and features that dramatically reduce the startup time. (Hyper-V for a Windows shop is still Windows, so less training and startup time, and XenServer and ESXi have versions for easy startup as well.) Secondly, the cost reductions that come from virtualization so far outweigh the cost that this answer is completely shortsighted. The compelling ROI and reduction in TCO are precisely the reason that server virtualization took off in the first place. If cost is an issue (which it is everywhere these days), then virtualization is, in almost all cases, a smart investment of time.

Don't have the expertise
Although this used to be a valid reason, with the new options just mentioned above, it is now easier to get started without having to invest in major education and training up front. Also, with the now widespread use of virtualization, finding people with this expertise is much easier.

Not enough servers to cost-justify
This is the first reason that might be valid, depending on the shop. However, even when there aren't enough servers to cost-justify virtualizing for consolidation, there are so many other benefits to virtualization that many small-medium shops are virtualizing for other reasons, like DR, availability and hardware independence. If you already have good solutions in place for DR and availability, and you're not planning any hardware changes, then you may be in the minority where virtualization doesn't make sense right now.

Conservative IT/Risk averse
The remaining answers mostly fit in the category of conservative IT and being risk averse. Some organizations are always the early adopters, and some are always the last to change. If your culture is the latter, moving to any new technology is always an uphill battle. But at this point, the technology is mature, there are multiple viable vendor options (competition always makes the products and choices better for users), there is solid data showing the successes of those who have gone before you, and building the business case is very straightforward. At the right time, even this group will make the leap. From where we sit, the time is now.


Barb Goldworm is president and chief analyst of Focus. Barb has spent over 30 years in technical, marketing, sales, senior management and industry analyst roles with IBM, StorageTek, Novell, EMA and multiple successful startups. Barb is Virtualization Chair for Interop, Blade Systems Insight and DataCenter Insights, and serves on several advisory boards on virtualization and cloud computing. She has authored hundreds of articles, business and technical white papers and research studies, in addition to her book "Blade Servers and Virtualization."

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