Virtualization Adoption Slips: More Gloom for IT?

Finding the truth about adoption of virtualization in the enterprise and among SMBs requires looking beyond the numbers.
Posted December 14, 2009

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

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What’s going on with virtualization? The once hot technology’s invasion of the data center is slowing down, at least according to recent studies from Gartner and IDC.

Gartner reported in October that “virtualization is still in its infancy,” noting that “only 16% of workloads are running in virtual machines today.” Meanwhile, IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Tracker found that “worldwide virtualization software revenue declined 18.7% year over year in 2Q09.”

What happened? Was it the economy? Was it obstacles like security and management? Was it the fact that vendors had been overhyping the space?

Actually, nothing much at all happened. Sure, the recession is slowing things down, but virtualization is still a bright spot in a bad economy, with adoption doubling almost every year. “When all is said and done, we expect adoption to increase by a factor of ten from 2008 to 2012,” said Thomas Bittman, an analyst with Gartner.

Meanwhile, that 18.7% dip that IDC reported still represents a $344 million virtualization market for the quarter, which isn’t too bad in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

A Shift in the Market

Even so, there are subtle shifts happening in the virtualization market. In recent years, virtualization has been limited to large enterprise, which skews the overall picture. Large enterprises start slowly, roll out pilots, and virtualize bit by bit, usually when contracts are up.

As virtualization spreads beyond the large enterprise, though, that process changes, with smaller companies doing it all at once. Now that every operating system except Mac OS X has built-in virtualization features, mid-sized organizations and even SMBs are getting into the virtualization game.

It’s Wi-Fi All Over Again

Consider the adoption rate of other once-new technologies. Remember when Wi-Fi was anything but enterprise class? Did that keep Wi-Fi out of the enterprise? No. Access points popped up anywhere IT pros wanted them.

Management didn’t know about them – and wouldn’t have known how to control them even if they did.

Virtualization may well take a similar path into SMBs.

“Virtualization is now a must-have feature,” said Tom Kemp, CEO of Centrify, a provider of identity and access management solutions. “Because it’s free, built into the operating system, system admins will just use it. This isn’t the ideal roll-out scenario, of course. Eventually, management and security will both be issues for organizations that follow this adoption path.”

To get a handle on the virtualization market, Centrify commissioned a study of adoption patterns. They found that adoption is accelerating, and that this is quickly becoming a heterogeneous market with most organizations having hypervisors from more than one vendor. Additionally, the lack of standardization in the market is creating security, management and compliance concerns.

What Kemp predicts is that third-party vendors will emerge to tackle many of these issues. It’s already happening with startups such as HyTrust and Catbird offering virtualization security solutions.

virtuatualization adoption

(chart courtesy Gartner)

The Licensing Roadblock

According to Gartner, the majority of large enterprises are very interested in cloud services – by which most mean private clouds – as the next logical step beyond virtualization.

Next Page: Enterprise and SMB cloud Computing and virtualization

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Tags: operating system, virtualization, virtual, Enterprise, workloads

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