Survey: Interest in server virtualisation overstated

Less than 20% of respondents will deploy server virtualisation technology within the next year, says research company

Server virtualisation may be enterprise computing's latest technology, but a recent survey of corporate IT buyers shows that near-term adoption may not match the hype.

According to an August survey of IT decision-makers by Sage Research, 38% say they plan to deploy server virtualisation technology within the next year. However, according to Chris Neal, head of the technology practice at Sage, the percentage of organisations that will actually follow through on those plans is likely about half that figure, or less than 20%.

Neal says the results are "inflated" due to factors out of the decision-makers' control, primarily whether they will get the needed funding from their organisations.

Moreover, other results of the survey, which involved 265 IT decision-makers at companies with 500 or more employees, show that organisations that are already using server virtualisation or that are interested in the technology are doing so mostly to increase efficiency and utilisation of their servers (84%) and lower data center costs (72%) — the basic and successful marketing mantra espoused by current market leader VMware.

Only 28% of respondents said they were interested in server virtualisation to support a shift to utility computing, while 45% said they were interested in more easily supporting multiple operating systems, and 51% were interested in increasing processing capabilities.

The lower interest in features outside of basic cost reduction and efficiency gain is coupled with little evidence of interest in cutting-edge alternative approaches to server virtualisation.

Eighteen percent of respondents said they were "very familiar" with chip-assisted virtualisation technology, such as Intel's VT or Advanced Micro Devices' AMD-V. Meanwhile, a third of respondents claimed to be "very familiar" with either hardware-assisted virtualisation, which promises to offer faster performance than VMware's more software-heavy approach, or open-source virtualisation software such as Xen, Open VZ or Virtual Iron.

That suggests that for now, VMware has less to fear from upstarts than the reporting in the technology press may make it appear, Neal says.

"It's a classic technology adoption pattern: a ton of buzz, followed by not much activity, and then more sales several years later. Virtualisation is not immune from it," Neal says. "From this survey, we're not seeing a lot of people actively researching and evaluating new technologies. It's still mostly an opportunistic buy: 'Hey, I need to buy a new server, so I might as well take a look at virtualisation.'"

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