Surprise: top executives are really bullish on virtualization, survey says

Top executives are enthusiastic about the benefits of virtualization, while middle managers' responses are a collective 'meh.' Say again?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Executives and managers at all levels are overwhelmingly pleased with the benefits and results virtualization has delivered to their operations. However, while the people on top see the impact of virtualization as a game-changer, this broad perspective dampens as you drill further down into organizations.

Data Center at CERN 2 -photo courtesy of CERN Press Office
Photo credit: CERN press office

That's one of the conclusions of a new survey of 150 managers and executives on virtualization trends, jointly sponsored by Cisco, FlexPod and NetApp. While everyone seems to be pleased with the nuts-and-bolts advantages virtualization across their environments is providing, they typically aren't quite tuned in to the impact it may be having on the way their organizations are doing business. Bear in mind that the survey's sponsors have a huge stake in the virtualization market, so there's definitely a point of view presented here. Still, it is notable that upper management seems to be so enamored with virtualization.

Top executives do appear to be aware of the broader impact, which is actually surprising for a technology survey. Let's face it, virtualization is not one of those topics that comes up in strategic board meetings -- unless the discussion is being framed as "cloud." Most notably, 75% of top executive managers believe there will be organizational changes within their firms as a result of the adoption of virtualization solutions, compared to only 25% of middle managers.

What is puzzling is that while 76% of upper executives say their organizations have achieved full  forecast cost-savings after virtualization implementation, only 43% of middle managers say this is the case. In addition, 70% of top executives say virtualization caused significant impact on efficiency and cost-savings, compared to 42% of middle managers.

The study's authors say the reason for upper executives being so much more bullish on virtualization than middle managers may be attributable to the fact that "virtualization cost-savings could very well be those middle manager’s salaries" and a "reduction of IT employees."

I don't know how threatened middle and IT managers feel by virtualization, and I suspect that most favor virtualization approaches that remove much of the manual and mundane operational aspects out of their colleagues' jobs. What this data may be telling us is that managers closer to the ground may be seeing some of the uglier integration and implementation challenges associated with virtualization. It's rarely a smooth ride.

A lot of the technical ugliness is hidden from business leaders. (Hey, isn't what virtualization is all about anyway?)

In fact, IT and middle managers are much more sesntive to the costs and security issues that arise when tasked with virtualization. The majority of firms that do not employ virtualization list cost of adoption as the number one issue holding them back. Middle managers were particularly concerned with costs as 61% listed it as the largest barrier to entry while only 33% of upper management cited cost first. Security was also a common concern as 51% of respondents named it a barrier.

Areas of IT being virtualized include the following:

  • Server virtualization  59%
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure   57%
  • Storage virtualization  44%
  • Network virtualization   42%
  • Remote desktop access  40%
  • Application deployment  37%
  • Thin clients  25%


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