Returns on virtualisation take time, users warned

Return on investment is harder to achieve than many expect

Organisations looking to introduce virtualisation should study their timescales, as it will take longer than planned to achieve any return on investment.

That's according to IT services company Computacenter, following a survey of IT senior staff about their experience with virtualisation. It found only 4 percent of companies that had installed desktop virtualisation (VDI) projects had experienced the expected ROI. The situation wasn't much better for companies that had installed server virtualisation, with just six percent achieving the expected results.

The survey of 130 IT decision makers also highlights other misconceptions — with 83 percent claiming that VDI would make it easier to manage and support desktop applications, something that Computacenter points out is not necessarily the case.

"Organisations need to be more realistic about virtualisation projects," says Paul Casey, Computacenter's datacentre platforms practice leader. "A lot of the people didn't achieve ROI, but that's because they were mainly working with hypervisor vendor's own tools and they didn't paint a realistic picture — they're naturally biased."

However, he explains that is also because the customers were not using the tools accurately. "They would be optimistic when they plugged the figures in," says Casey. "We would use the same tools and get a different figure — for example, the customer might have an ROI within six months, while we would say 12.

Andy Goddard, who is Computacenter's practice leader in the workplace and collaboration business, agrees. "There are a lot of misunderstandings about. Some people get a lot of benefits and some people don't get a lot of benefits. It is one thing bringing desktop virtualisation in, but it is not being managed," Goddard says.

It is not just about tools, however, says Casey. "Organisations have to take a longer view of virtualisation and the ROI that you get from it," Casey says. There are some things that aren't easily measured. The whole ROI case is based around cost savings and that's where the ROI struggles. The real benefits are more flexible, for example, it could be that a company moves from a 1000-seat building to a 500-seat building. That sort of calculation is not so easy to work out."

Both Casey and Goddard agreed it was important to look beyond the tools supplied by the hypervisor vendors. "We look at a variety of tools," Casey says. "For capacity management, we've found Metron-Athene to be good and Embotics' vCommander for managing sprawl. I don't want to single out any product in particular, but there are some good ones out there."

Despite these setbacks, there is little evidence that companies are holding back on their virtualisation rollouts, although there may be some rethinking to do. "There is absolutely a demand for virtualisation. I can't see any cooling off of demand. They just need to have a rethink of management and technologies. Planning from day one is key — thinking about platforms, size and scale of virtual machines, implementing management tools, and working out how to form teams — there's a need to look at the bigger picture, not just at individual projects," Casey says.

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