Virtualisation’s full potential not realised yet, says Gartner

Wait a few years and it will really start to deliver, the analyst firm says

Businesses will need to open their wallets if they want to be technology leaders, as virtualisation is expensive, says Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman.

Speaking at Gartner’s recent infrastructure, operations and datacentre summit in Sydney, Bittman said the number of virtual machines will rise from 500,000 to three million by 2009.

However, he advises IT managers to “stick it out” until the problems with virtualisation, such as licensing, support and emerging technologies are ironed out.

“There aren’t many good virtualisation vendors out there at the moment and virtualisation is still expensive,” Bittman said, adding that virtualisation will be a free service in the near future.

He said business should build a strong datacentre governance strategy to fend off vendors who will begin vying for third-party control of virtualisation.

“Vendors will be competing for [datacentre] governance, so you need to have a solid strategy,” Bittman said.

“Don’t allow VMWare, IBM and Microsoft to own your governance because none of them have been able to totally deliver virtualisation yet and you don’t want to be locked in.”

At the conference, Gartner senior analyst Phil Sargent said virtualisation will be part of nearly every aspect of IT by 2015. He recommends IT managers query vendors now about how they will accommodate their application with the new technology.

“Virtualisation will bring more consumer client applications into the datacentre, which needs to be discussed with vendors as well,” Sargent said.

“There are still [problems] with virtualisation in support and software licensing and not everything can be virtualised; this will clear-up over the next two to four years.”

Real Time Infrastructure (RTI), a term coined by Gartner, encapsulates the benefits in improved datacentre policies, SLAs, agility and cost derived from sharing infrastructure resources between businesses and internal departments.

SOA and web services, as a part of RTI, could become a “nightmare” for datacentres as businesses and vendors explore the model, according to Bittman.

At the conference, he said application failure will be the number one cause of unplanned downtime and will increase in businesses that use SOAs.

He cited Gartner statistics which found unplanned downtime in SOA-based businesses will be caused by application failure (60%), operator error (20%), and environmental factors (20%).

In contrast, downtime in non SOA-based business will be caused by application failure (40%), operator error (40%), and environmental factors (20%).

He said the cumbersome RTI offerings of big companies like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and IBM will falter as small dynamic players will better appeal to the market.

Power and cooling concerns will die out like last year’s fashion with the arrival of specialist technology in 2011, but datacentres will need to endure until then, he said. “Power and cooling requires densities that current equipment can’t handle [but] you will need to survive a few years before it is resolved.”

Sargent points out that increasing densities and shrinking technology are causing grief, with IT managers trying to cap power use in their datacentres.

Windows and Linux will split over the next few years to meet the rising demands in thin computing, which will rival the need for a centralised operating system.

Bittman pointed out that “the need for a deep, general Windows and Linux will grow, but thin computing will demand a [stripped down] OS which will basically be a smaller runtime application for streaming to thin clients”.

On the outsourcing front, big players will sink as small dynamic vendors soak up business from SMBs.

“Large companies that currently dominate the market will retain their governance while smaller, cheaper outsourcers will soak up [menial] tasks outsourced by SMBs,” he said.

IT managers should focus on improving business agility and culture, he said.

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