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Server virtualization is hot in 2006

The IT industry has caught on to something that mainframe pros have known for years: virtualization—of CMOS resources, especially—matters.

Virtualization, perhaps more than any other trend, will decisively impact this year’s IT market, IDC predicts. Not only do commercial entries—such as VMWare’s ESX and GSX Server offerings, along with Microsoft’s Virtual Server product and SWSoft’s Virtuozzo—continue to gestate and mature, but open-source virtualization projects such as Xen are also coming to the fore.

Xen, in particular, has encouraged a number of commercial ISVs (such as XenSource and Virtual Iron Software) to challenge entrenched players such as EMC’s VMWare. However, not all potential customers understand the business case for virtualization, caution IDC researchers, which makes education important, too.

“Software vendors and end users alike will be faced with important decisions, driven by changes that include the spread of virtualization, volume shipment of multicore chip technologies, and the increased demand for IT process improvements to better support the business,” said Tim Grieser, VP of system management software, IDC, in a statement.

To some extent, interest in virtualization is yoked to the emergence of multicore commodity chips, such as Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s Opteron chips. IDC says Intel-based multicore chip designs will begin to dominate volume hardware shipments in the second half of 2006. Such chips give customers more processing bang for the buck—incentive to virtualize their server resources—but won’t immediately trigger a surge in multicore-ready system software or system management software license revenues.

IDC isn’t alone in predicting a gangbuster year for server virtualization. Forrester Research reports server virtualization has surpassed all other forms of infrastructure virtualization, including storage and network resource virtualization.

Forrester recorded strong recognition for server virtualization with 75 percent of 1,221 enterprises reporting that they were at least aware of such technologies. Research also showed encouraging uptake: 26 percent of enterprises have implemented server virtualization and eight percent plan to pilot such solutions by this summer. Computational grids frequently require architectural changes, note Forrester, while server virtualization lets companies encapsulate apps into “containers” that can be moved between physical servers.

Not surprisingly, Forrester found, North American companies are ahead of the curve in terms of adopting server virtualization solutions, with EU firms second overall. In spite of VMWare’s pioneering track record and dominance in North America, Microsoft not only leads in the EU, it is a favorite among large enterprise customers.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at stephen.swoyer@spinkle.net.

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