As described in the introductory overview for this special report, virtualization dates back to the heyday of the mainframe. It enabled organizations to run multiple workloads with different operating systems on a single mainframe. The much more sophisticated tools available today enable businesses to virtualize a range of components in the data center — from servers to storage to networks — and at the desktop. ZDNet's IT Priorities 2013 research study uncovered widespread activity on virtualization in the region, and showed that some countries in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region have moved more quickly than others to take advantage of virtualization's benefits.
Australia and New Zealand lead in data center, India at the desktop
Almost half (49 percent) of Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) organizations have already virtualized server environments, compared to 43 percent in India and 41 percent in South-East Asia (SEA). Thirty-six percent of ANZ organizations have also virtualized storage environments — ahead of India (30 percent) and SEA (29 percent).
This result is to be expected. Outside the mature SEA economies like Singapore, ANZ businesses are typically more established, with a greater range of legacy infrastructure in the data center or server room. As a result, they have more scope for virtualization of servers and storage, and have more to gain from consolidating the server sprawl that typically grows in mature businesses with legacy technology.
The picture is different outside of the data center, where India leads the way in the surveyed regions in desktop virtualization (28 percent of Indian businesses have virtualized some or all of their desktop infrastructure). SEA and ANZ organizations have been slower to virtualize desktops (only 19 percent have done so).
The IT Priorities survey didn't explore the reasons for India's lead in desktop virtualization, so I can only hypothesize. I'm willing to bet that resistance to change in Australia and the more mature SEA economies is part of the reason. White-collar workers in these economies have grown used to fat-client PCs and laptops. These devices gave them plenty of latitude — to save data to local disks, to install their own apps (in some cases), and to utilise laptops for personal use at work or at home. Workers in growing economies like India have generally had less history of using fat clients, and less chance to build up a reliance on some of the benefits. As a result, it's possible that Indian organizations have had more success in changing worker expectations and deploying virtualized desktops.
India also leads the way in network virtualization, where 29 percent have virtualized parts or all of their network, compared to 25 percent in SEA and 22 percent in ANZ.
Virtualization depth as well as breadth
Virtualization can be measured not only by the proportion of organizations that have virtualized parts of their IT infrastructure, but also by the extent of the virtualization within these organizations. For example, if 50 percent of organizations in a country have virtualized their servers, and if those businesses have virtualized an average of 50 percent of their server infrastructure, that is equivalent to 25 percent of organizations in another economy virtualizing 100 percent of their server infrastructure (assuming the organizations have a roughly similar scale of IT infrastructure).
By this measure, ANZ organizations have virtualized a much higher proportion of their server and storage infrastructure than their Asian and Indian counterparts. Firstly, a greater proportion of ANZ businesses have virtualized some of their servers (see previous chart). Second, on average, ANZ organizations have virtualized 52 percent of servers and 46 percent of storage, compared to 41 percent and 38 percent, respectively, for Asia, and 37 percent of servers and 35 percent of storage in Indian organizations.
The extent of virtualization
ANZ's lead in server virtualization is overturned in desktop virtualization, where Indian companies have virtualized around 32 percent of their desktop/laptop fleet, compared to 27 percent in SEA and just 26 percent in Australia.
For network virtualization, the three regions are in step, with 34 percent of network infrastructure being virtualized to date.
The above chart shows that even those organizations that have virtualized their IT infrastructure still have some work to do. That's why a sizeable proportion of APAC businesses plan virtualization projects in 2013.
This year, more Indian and SEA organizations (41 percent and 42 percent, respectively) are undertaking server and virtualization projects than are ANZ businesses (33 percent). The pattern is repeated for server virtualization, with 37 percent of both Indian and SEA organizations undertaking a project, compared to 31 percent of ANZ businesses. At the end of these projects, approximately the same proportion of businesses in all three regions will have virtualized part or all of their server and storage infrastructure.
Virtualization projects in 2013
While Indian and SEA organizations will continue to virtualize the network (35 percent and 32 percent, respectively), only 22 percent of ANZ organizations will do so, leaving the Aussies and Kiwis trailing their APAC neighbours. This is similar to desktop virtualization, where only 22 percent of ANZ organizations are doing projects this year, compared to 28 percent of their SEA counterparts and 35 percent of Indian businesses.
Server virtualization most important
Respondents across SEA, ANZ, and India all agree that server virtualization is their single most important data center initiative in 2013. Storage virtualization is rated the third most important datacenter initiative in SEA and India, but fifth in Australia.
In total, 70 percent of server virtualization projects in SEA are motivated by cost savings. This includes 36 percent where the business driver is achieving cost efficiencies from better utilisation of IT, 17 percent where the goal is to cut costs in the business, and another 17 percent where efficiencies from automating systems and processes is the driver.
The motivations for server virtualization extend to virtualization of other components of IT infrastructure, such as storage, the network, and desktops. Given the need to continually remove cost from legacy architecture and refocus the money into client-facing technologies, it's safe to assume that more organizations will virtualize, and those that have already done so will virtualize greater proportions of their IT infrastructure.
The obvious question is what will they do for their next trick? Will they deploy an on-premises private cloud, or move much of their workloads to public cloud suppliers? Whichever way they go, many thousands of traditional data center jobs will go, too. The impact on traditional IT vendors, with hardware sales opportunities declining, also promises to be substantial. Virtualization is already helping to transform IT infrastructure in businesses, and the IT cost-benefit equation. The next step in this process — increased virtualization and large-scale migration of workloads to cloud — promises to have an even larger impact.
Note: The ZDNet IT Priorities research study was conducted across APAC between February and April 2013, attracting over 3,000 respondents. Respondents in large businesses were mostly CIO level or direct reports to the CIO, while respondents in smaller organizations were either senior non-IT managers, or more junior technical managers. Now in its fourth year in APAC, IT Priorities is an annual study looking broadly at IT trends across the region. Stay tuned for a sister study, Cloud Priorities, which in October will report in detail on private cloud, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS across APAC.