Virtual explosion set for 2009

Virtualization will make big waves this year as companies seek ways to improve resource utilization and cut operational costs, say industry observers.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

Virtualization is one technology that analysts and technology vendors are in agreement will be one of the key technologies in 2009.

Springboard Research, for example, said in its Asia Pacific IT Market Predictions 2009 executive brief, data center transformation will be a crucial activity this year across the Asia-Pacific region. Virtualization, the research firm said, will drive these transformations.

The technology will help organizations focus on improving resource utilization and allocation, reducing operational costs, simplifying data center resources management and increasing reliability and availability, Springboard said.

As the global financial woes extend into 2009, Jim Lenox, Asia South general manager at VMware, said governments and businesses will increasingly be forced to do more with less--and this is one of the key value propositions of virtualization.

"As a result, virtualization is increasingly at the top of the list of strategic priorities for organizations worldwide," Lenox told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail. "Virtualization's money-saving capabilities, as well as its transformative effect on the industry, will spur adoption."

Yaj Malik, Asean vice president of Citrix Systems, said tighter IT budgets and "incredible pressures" on capital and operating expenditures will accentuate cost and inflexibility--the "inherent" problems of distributed computing.


Nobody deploys virtualization technology because it is the latest trend or for the short-term cost savings.

Yaj Malik, Citrix Systems vice president for Asean

"In 2009, in order to succeed, companies will have to simplify IT by centralizing and managing it without compromising security, and the best way to achieve this is through virtualization," Malik said in an e-mail.

"Nobody deploys virtualization technology because it is the latest trend or for the short-term cost savings," he said. "Goldman Sachs sees total cost of ownership reductions as a key driver of the acceleration in server virtualization deployments, as CIOs are forced to cut capital spending."

Aman Dokania, director and general manager of infrastructure software for Hewlett-Packard Asia-Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that benefits such as reduced costs, greater agility and better IT service delivery, have pushed CIOs to recognize the impact virtualization has on the bottom line.

Moving into 2009, Lenox said organizations that have already embarked on virtualization with server consolidation projects will extend the technology's use to the desktop, storage and networking areas. Virtualization, he added, will provide companies with more flexible and economical approaches to business continuity, security and application service level agreements.

In the enterprise space, he said, data centers are starting to evolve into automated private clouds, where computing resources are pooled on a virtualization platform so that the IT infrastructure can essentially become like a single, giant computer.

"At the same time, the outsourcing of compute capacity over the Internet to public clouds, or cloud services providers, is becoming a just-in-time reality," Lenox said.

He noted that as the IT industry continues to drive the vision of cloud computing, virtualization is the infrastructure on which this is built.

"2009 will see continued momentum for virtualization adoption on the enterprise and service provider fronts, as cloud computing emerges as a solution to address key concerns around cost control, flexibility, efficiency and competitiveness," he said.

Another driver for virtualization adoption in 2009 will be the increasing pressure for companies to consider the environmental impact of their operations. According to Lenox, this will accelerate demand for green data center offerings. Server consolidation, through virtualization, is one of the best ways to reduce power usage, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Good for SMBs, too
Citing figures from Gartner, Malik said 80- to 90 percent of the capacity of the x86 server environment is unused at any one time.

"Virtualization, which promises to unlock much of this underutilized capacity without having to invest in new hardware, will offer a new lease of life to [such machines for] businesses," he said.

Meanwhile, Dokania noted that IDC's latest quarterly Worldwide Server Virtualization Tracker revealed growth in server virtualization within the small and midsize business (SMB) space. "Traditionally thought of as [a technology] solely for the enterprise, virtualization has become an ideal server platform for SMBs running enterprise applications," he said.

"With smaller offices, budgets and staff, virtualization can help them maximize their IT investments by putting unused resources and capacity to work where the SMBs [need] them most," he explained. "They can also leverage their resellers to properly implement and manage their IT environments, so as to achieve the automation of routine tasks, better leverage staff resources, attain higher availability and facilitate faster responses to incidents."

However, Springboard said challenges to virtualization remain. Security issues in a virtualized environment, lack of standards and full interoperability, lack of integrated processes in organizations and skill shortages will be among key deterrents to virtualization, according to the research company.

HP's Dokania added that one of the main challenges of virtualization adoption is the "customers' concept of the technology". This especially applies to less mature economies where businesses tend to take a more IT-centric view of virtualization.

To reap the technology's full business benefits, he said CIOs should rethink virtualization in terms of business outcomes. "Virtualization has to be worked into the strategic framework which focuses on business results, not individual projects," he added.

Malik said another barrier is that some applications are "easy to virtualize" and certified virtualization-ready, but many others that are crucial to enterprises have yet to be optimized for virtualized environments.

"Nonetheless, this barrier will likely cease to exist within the next couple of months, as application vendors write more for virtualized environments, thereby boosting its adoption," he said.

Virtualization for desktops
Better vendor collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, will result in software standards merging in 2009. This will extend virtualization beyond the server in data centers to the desktop, said IDC.

"Thin-client deployments on the back of desktop virtualization will gain traction in 2009," said the research firm.
Meanwhile, Malik noted that more people are working now from their homes and branch offices across different countries. And with the entry of the Generation Y workforce, the demand for flexible hardware policies has been pushing IT departments to allow a variety of platforms and devices into the corporate network.

These users, he said, will each have significantly different computing requirements and pose one of the greatest changes to the way organizations do business.

Companies that wish to attract and retain this generation of workers are doing so by supporting them with technologies that give them reliable and secure access to information anytime, anywhere using any devices.

In this respect, Allen Tiffany, remote client solutions business unit manager of personal systems group at HP Asia-Pacific and Japan, said desktop virtualization will allow companies to vary computing needs by an employee's profile, department, and "even by location, project or time of year".

Because of this flexibility, Malik said 2009 will see increased adoption of desktop virtualization by companies to cope with "dynamic changes".

According to Tiffany, while there is no "prescriptive guidance" on the exact environments most suitable for desktop virtualization, there are a number of industries that continue to drive client virtualization adoption--namely, the financial services, education, manufacturing and public sectors.

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