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Study Highlights Use, Challenges and Future of Virtualization

Although 54 percent of large enterprises around the globe rate management of their virtual server environment as a critical or high IT priority, fewer than half (45 percent) think their companies are doing it effectively. This and other findings from CA's global survey about virtualized environments were released this week.

At these companies -- each with more than $250 million in annual revenue -- the top three IT areas that the respondents wanted to virtualize included servers, storage and applications. Server virtualization brought the most success (56 percent said they were successful).

U.S. enterprises were particularly insistent on the importance of virtualization. Although 74 percent of all respondents found it important, 88 percent of U.S. companies ranked servers as the most important area to virtualize.

"Respondents in [Asian-Pacific] regions rated data center virtualization and virtualization of application grids almost equally as important as servers and storage," the study found, adding that these respondents "are also more likely than those in other regions to rate I/O or network, files and desktop virtualization as important."

Virtualization was clearly a hot topic with all respondents. Worldwide, 64 percent reported having investments in the technology; the other 36 percent have plans to invest in it, with server and storage virtualization topping the list of intended targets.

Over half (56 percent) of the 300 executives surveyed used multiple platforms and vendors to manage their virtualized environment, and just over a third (35 percent) have standardized on a single platform. Centralized management of multiple platform environments was critical or very important according to 68 percent of respondents.

"Successful management of the virtualization infrastructure is essential in order to optimize technology initiatives, enable documented returns on investments, and enhance productivity across the enterprise," said Paula Daley, vice president of product marketing at CA, in a statement. "IT executives must go beyond relying on an assortment of point platform-based management tools to one that centralizes virtual, physical and clustered environments. Doing so will increase their confidence in managing virtual server environments, reduce complexity, improve operational efficiency, and ensure that IT investments are optimized and generating competitive advantages for the business."

When managing a virtualized server, the survey found that performance/utilization, security and automation were the more important capabilities of a management tool. Among the benefits most often realized, respondents named easier hardware provisioning and software deployment, more flexible development and testing environments, and optimizing system performance. Security was the biggest challenge when managing virtualized servers.

Measuring return on investment was a critical management challenge. Ironically, although over half (51 percent) of respondents said they were extremely confident or confident that their companies are maximizing the return on virtualization investments, only 28 percent reported having a method to actually measure the ROI. Lakshmi Pedda, senior product marketing manager at CA, said that this finding points to a big disconnect between what users want and what they have.

"The lack of ROI tools is also something that CA will be addressing, helping companies develop a comprehensive set of factors to help them evaluate investments in virtualization technologies," she said.

Beyond reporting on current virtualization practices, CA survey's sheds light on how virtualization use is changing. For example, during the next 18 months, expect virtualization to move beyond its current support for nonmission-critical applications. It's expected to be applied to an enterprise's mission-critical applications, particularly with regard to IT infrastructure, customer service, accounting/finance, data analytics and application development. Use of virtualization to support business continuity and disaster recovery is also expected to increase.

Pedda said the results of the global survey were closely aligned with experiences described by current CA customers.

"We also found that a server's utilization rate did increase, as users expected," she explained. "On average, before virtualization, servers were running at 10 to 15 percent of capacity; our survey found that after implementation, that use was raised to 57 percent on average.

"We also found that respondents were clear about the need for reporting metrics across the IT infrastructure. The complexity of heterogeneous environments is great, and enterprises need to see the big picture."

An executive summary of the results can be found here.

About the Author

This article is courtesy of Enterprise Systems. James E. Powell is editorial director of ESJ.com.

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