Red Hat finds virtualization vital for enterprise despite container competition

Virtualization may not be as hot as containers, but virtualization is still picking up steam.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Containers are hot, but virtualization adoption remains on the rise within the enterprise, according to recent Red Hat research.

The survey of more than 900 enterprise IT pros found businesses are using virtualization to drive server consolidation, decrease provisioning time, and provide infrastructure for developers to build and deploy applications.


Virtualization may not get the press that container and cloud do, but without it, neither of the others could exist.

They're doing it for the same reasons virtualization has always found friends: saving money.

Cost pressures clearly remain top of mind, with, ironically, cost or cost reduction ranking as greatest challenge.

Enterprises are up for the challenge though. Over the next two years, survey respondents said they expect to increase both virtualized infrastructure and workloads by 18 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

In terms of application mix, the most commonly virtualized workloads are web applications, including websites (73 percent), web application servers (70 percent), and databases (67 percent).

Virtualization usage starts early in an application's lifecycle. 85 percent of respondents indicated that they develop on virtual machines (VM), with another 61 percent saying they also deploy these applications on virtualized infrastructure.

Based on my own experiences, and those of the developers I know, the numbers are dead on. Programmers today work on VMs. The only exceptions are operating system and driver developers.

Red Hat also found that virtualization remains popular for the usual reasons. According to the survey, the top three benefits of virtualization today are:

  • Faster server provisioning (55 percent)
  • Cost benefits (49 percent)
  • Server consolidation (47 percent)

In short, same as it ever was.

True, containers such as Docker can save even more money by running more applications per server than VMs. But, for all their popularity, containers are still seen as a new technology. When asked about the most important capabilities of virtualization, the top answers were reliability (79 percent), high availability (73 percent), and performance (70 percent). These were followed closely by security and scalability.

I find it no surprise that reliability and high availability rank so high. IT pros know they can count on VMs day in and day out. Containers? They're not so sure about them yet.

At the same time, Red Hat, pointed out, virtualization still faces challenges. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said budgets and costs as a key challenge. Migrating workloads still isn't cheap and maintaining virtualization environments adds another level of complexity to system administration.

Sure, in the long run, virtualization save enterprises money, but getting there takes money. Between proprietary software, licenses, and extensive consulting services, workload migration costs can ramp up.

Of course, even as companies struggle with virtualization and workload migration, they're looking ahead to still more transformation. At the top of the list, IT staffs are looking at private cloud (60 percent) and containers (41 percent).

Another big challenge is still VM management. While not ranked as the number one challenge, it still showed up high in the rankings for most important capability (ease of management 63 percent) and a top migration benefit (simplified management 62 percent). It doesn't help any that most system administrators, 75 percent, use separate management tools built into each virtualization product or separate third-party tools to manage virtualization.

All that said, virtualization continues to grow. The survey respondents see an 18 percent increase in both VM workloads and infrastructure over two years. In addition, that growth is not only in server virtualization, as respondents also forecast an emphasis on network (49 percent) and storage (45 percent) virtualization over the coming four years. Software-defined networking and storage are destined to become far more important than they are today.

This doesn't even count that the cloud, which, according to Gartner, is growing at a 38.4 percent rate.

Virtualization may seem like yesterday's tech with all the hype about the cloud and containers, but, if anything, it's more important than ever.

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