SAN FRANCISCO -- When Dilbert's pointy-haired boss asks IT for something, there's usually no substance behind the request other than it's trendy. Wednesday's strip, in which he asks Dilbert to "implement cloud computing so I'll have something to talk about at the next executive meeting" shows at least he's right on top of the latest trend.
"We've been pleasantly surprised by the uptake in interest in the cloud. There's so much hunger and receptiveness for private clouds now. We've gone through the Gartner hype cycle quickly and now we see it's real," said Bogomil Balkansky, vice president of product marketing at VMWare's (NYSE VMW) server business unit. Balkansky joined other virtualization vendors at a media event here sponsored by HP.
While there's interest, the vendors said there has to be greater penetration of virtualization technology as a foundation before cloud computing -- the idea of IT as a service that doesn't need to reside in a company's datacenter and can be outsourced -- can take hold.
Virtualization is stuck at around 20 to 30 percent adoption at many companies that were ready and willing to consolidate servers for the relatively straightforward cost savings. But virtualizing more of the IT infrastructure has proved problematic in many cases.
"We see a lot of folks jumping beyond 20 percent, but the blockers are complexity. When you get beyond 20 percent, you have to worry about the physical world. What companies find is they have to manage both physical and virtual assets separately," said David Greschler, director of systems marketing for the servers and tools business at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
When companies get to 40 percent or greater virtualization, Greschler said it can become costly and too complex for many to allocate the necessary management resources.
"Our strategy is to let IT see both the physical and virtual from the same console," he said.
In general, the panel of vendors was bullish on the prospects for both public and private cloud adoption as better systems for managing and tracking costs come to the fore and the economy turns around, freeing up funds to invest.
"Today a lot of companies are spending 70 to 80 percent on K.T.L.O. [Keep The Lights On], so how do you innovate?" said Ramin Sayar, vice president of products for HP's (NYSE: HPQ) software and solutions who leads the company's virtualization strategy.
There is also the question of definition. At a recent CIO summit sponsored by HP, Sayar said nine out of ten CIOs surveyed stated they had a cloud initiative underway for this fiscal year. But follow up questions revealed many were talking about more limited SaaS and on-premise implementations. "That's not the cloud," said Sayar. "The numbers went down to a few who had cloud computing projects actively underway."