Still, virtualization isnt perfect. Because the strategy introduces complexity into a network, many implementations require additional system resources to run the processes. Virtualization experts refer to this as overhead, and note that in some cases, virtualizing requires significant additional investments in bandwidth to ensure the network functions properly.
Ken Salchow, manager of technical marketing at F5 Networks, a networking company in Seattle, said that depending on the implementation, investing in an entire layer of these resources could become a critical part of successful virtualization.
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Whatever the network infrastructure, primary applications need network resources to work the way theyre supposed to, Salchow said. Businesses need to focus on these resources; simply virtualizing is not enough.
Another potential pitfall: losing track of the virtual infrastructure. Jonathan Bryce, founder of Mosso, a hosting company in San Antonio, Texas, said that because its so easy to create new resources using virtualization, companies need to take a disciplined approach to provisioning and monitoring virtual machines.
Perhaps the final challenge is total system failure. Because virtualized companies run multiple technologies off one device, failure can wreak havoc on a whole segment of a network. This can cause isolated service disruptionsa reality that Andrew Barnes, senior vice president of corporate development at Neverfail (Neverfail, a disaster recovery company in Austin, Texas, said businesses must recognize.
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding virtualization is that true disaster recovery and high availability are built into the products offered by the major virtualization software vendors, said Barnes. The fact is that companies need to handle much of this on their own.
Despite these challenges, experts say affordability should keep virtualization around for a while. Numbers from Gartner and Forrester suggest that businesses are still warming to the idea, and one can only imagine more small- and mid-sized businesses will embrace the strategy as they push toward greener operations in the months and years ahead.
Still, there is room for improvement. A recent study by Novell and Lighthouse Research found that while 45 percent of 411 respondents had implemented virtualization technology, few were using automated management tools to improve efficiency and resource utilization in the data center.
Ben Rudolph, a spokesperson for SWSoft, a virtualization company in Herndon, Va., said that businesses need to remember that virtualization is not a miracle drug for any business, and that without proper foresight and management it could become more of a burden than a boon.
If you move from 50 real servers to 5 real servers with 50 virtual servers, youve actually complicated your infrastructure, he said. Good planning and good management tools can help any business clear the confusion and really get its hands around its virtual deployment so it can really optimize its infrastructure.