State of virtualization and cloud computing: 2011

IT professionals demand the increasing utilization and flexibility that virtualization and cloud technologies provide.

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Virtualization has emerged as a major enabler for the modern data center, increasing resource utilization, system

support options and resilience. Cloud computing technologies further that transformation, bringing on-demand provisioning and scalability to computing users. So, how does your organization’s acceptance of virtualization and cloud computing compare to the rest of the IT industry?

In early 2011, SearchDataCenter.com released the Data Center Decisions 2011 (DCD: 2011) survey to gauge reader trends and get an understanding of the factors influencing data center evolution in the enterprise. We received more than 1,000 responses from a range of professionals spanning numerous IT roles. In this article, the second in a special report series, we examine survey results surrounding virtualization, cloud adoption and technology choices. And we take a look at how those numbers compare to our 2010 findings.

Virtualization adoption in the data center
Server virtualization is permeating the enterprise data center and once-wary IT professionals are gaining confidence in the technology. DCD: 2011 asked IT professionals about the status of server virtualization in their organizations. There was a marked decline in the number of first-time deployments and expansion projects between 2010 and 2011 (see Table 1), which is understandable as nearly 60% of respondents are currently using server virtualization.

Table 1 – Adoption of virtualization in the data center

Virtualization status 2011 results 2010 results

Using virtualization to consolidate servers

59%

No data

Expanding an existing virtualization deployment

49%

60%

Deploying virtualization for the first time

6%

9%


Using virtualization for disaster recovery and availability

43%

41%

Using virtualization for resource allocation

28%

30%

Using virtualization to maintain “golden images”

20%

24%

Using virtualization for the cloud

15%

13%


Evaluating endpoint virtualization

20%

25%

Deploying or expanding endpoint virtualization

19%

16%


Only evaluating virtualization; no deployments

12%

16%

No plans to use virtualization

6%

5%

Many varied uses for virtualization. Some of the most popular uses for server virtualization are to improve disaster recovery (DR) and workload availability, dynamically allocate computing resources and maintain a standardized set of “golden images” that can be used to quickly deploy new virtual machines. Server virtualization can also be used as a platform for private cloud adoption.

“Other companies are using virtualization as a form of ‘green technology’ as well as consolidation,” said Bill Kleyman, director of technology at World Wide Fittings Inc., a Niles, Ill.-based steel tube and pipe manufacturer. “Where a data center might have had 10 older systems running, now they are able to purchase two physical hosts and [perform a physical-to-virtual migrations on] older workloads and create a smaller hardware footprint.”

Methods used to implement virtualization in the data center remain fairly standard from 2010 to 2011 (Table 1). While virtualization technologies continue to improve, principal uses remain unchanged.

Virtualization reaches to the enterprise endpoints. Virtualization continues to expand beyond the server—reaching desktops, laptop, tablets, smart phones and other endpoints within the enterprise. Endpoint virtualization is not a new technology; many organizations appear to be beyond basic evaluations.

“[Data centers] will stream entire desktops over the LAN to a thin client or dummy terminal,” Kleyman said. “The technology allows for maximum end-user experience since the technology streams only what is needed for the user at that very moment, reducing the amount of traffic needed for a fluid desktop experience.”

DCD survey numbers suggest that endpoint virtualization adoption grew slightly between 2010 and 2011 (see Table 1), as IT organizations deploy or expand its use to improve endpoint security and maintenance efficiency.

Virtualization deployment meets resistance. Not all IT pros are ready for virtualization; a small percentage report they are only evaluating the technology and do not plan to deploy it in the data center in 2011.

Reasons why organizations continue to shun virtualization have changed little year-over-year. There are, however, some common themes worth noting, as shown in Table 2. Prevailing reasons for avoiding virtualization in 2011 and 2010 surround the perception of “need.” DCD: 2011 respondents managing small environments with only a few servers or business applications don't feel they can justify adding the technology. In other cases, application suitability is a concern, often because the data center is outfitted with older or proprietary/internally developed applications that may not be suitable for virtualization.

Table 2 – Top reasons to avoid virtualization

Reason 2011 results 2010 results

Inadequate number of servers or applications

34%

42%

Server utilization is not a problem

34%

25%

Applications are not a good fit

23%

17%

No budget or expenditure approval

20%

11%

Non-IT executives won't approve it

14%

11%

The perception of “need” also extends to management and budget; organizations often avoid virtualization because they lack budget or higher ups won't approve the expenditure. The onus may be on IT professionals to do a better job of quantifying the benefits of virtualization in terms of lower hardware costs, less downtime and other advantages.

Virtualization product choices. There are three principal server virtualization vendors enterprises can work with: VMware, Microsoft and Citrix. When asked what primary virtualization product was deployed in the enterprise, respondents in 2011 and 2010 overwhelmingly reported VMware (see Table 3). And nearly half of DCD: 2011 respondents have migrated to vSphere 4.0, the latest version.

Table 3 – Top virtualization product deployments

Product 2011 results 2010 results

VMware ESXi 4 and later (vSphere)

45%

34%

VMware ESX 3.5 to 4.1

18%

26%

VMware Server

6%

7%


Microsoft Hyper-V R2

6%

6%

Microsoft Hyper-V (pre-R2)

6%

3%


Citrix XenServer

4%

5%

While Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer remain relevant products, they trail vSphere by a considerable margin. Less than 3% of respondents have deployed other virtualization platforms such as Oracle VM, Ubuntu KVM, mainframe partitions, Red Hat Enterprise Linux KVM and IBM-AIX Workload Partition Management (WPAR).

Scope of virtualization deployment. More organizations are deploying virtualization across a larger number of physical servers. In 2011, 43% of respondents deployed virtualization on up to 25% of servers, 28% deployed it on 26% to 50% of servers, 18% deployed virtualization on 51% to 75% of servers, and 11% virtualized 76% to 100% of their servers. This is a shift from 2010, when far more respondents deployed virtualization on fewer machines. As time goes on, virtualization should appear across a larger percentage of data center ecosystems.

The number of virtual workloads deployed on each physical server has increased slowly since last year. In 2011, 50% of respondents reported running fewer than 10 workloads per physical server, 35% run 10 to 20 workloads per server, 10% run 21 to 30 workloads per server, and 5% run more than 30 workloads per server. This is only a slight uptick from last year’s numbers for all workload sizes. It’s important to note that a larger percentage of users are running 10 to 20 VMs per server. This trend should continue as users become more comfortable maximizing physical server utilization.

Data tells us that the data center is supporting multiple workloads, and may suggest that organizations are grappling with VM sprawl. “Even the most controlled and tightly managed virtual environments fall victim to limited amounts of VM sprawl,” said Chris Steffen, principal technical architect at Kroll Factual Data, an independent verifications service provider located in Loveland, Colo. “More loosely managed environments would find it a significant problem if they were stepping back and looking at it. Decision makers should acknowledge the impacts of server and VM sprawl on their environments, or at least take a step back and look into the growth of their environments, before signing the next requisition for additional computing power.”

Virtualization deployment platforms and vendors. Organizations can successfully deploy virtualization on almost any modern server, though the composition of “standard” hardware platforms has shifted in recent years to blades and large rack units. In 2011, 30% of respondents deploy virtualization on blade servers, 29% use large rack servers (2U and larger), 15% use 1U servers and 3% use other large SMP machines. This is a slight increase across all server types from 2010.

It's important to note that 24% of respondents did not have a standard hardware platform for virtualization in 2011, up from 22% in 2010.

In terms of virtualization platform hardware vendors, Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and IBM Corp. remain the top three; Dell emerged as a clear leader in 2011 (see Table 4). Oracle/Sun Microsystems showed a slight decline since 2010, while the number of respondents installing Cisco Systems increased slightly. One-percent or fewer respondents are using other server vendors such as Supermicro, Hitachi, Egenera, Fujitsu, NEC, SGI/Rackable Systems and Unisys.

Table 4 – Hardware vendors for virtualization server platforms

Vendor 2011 results 2010 results

Dell Inc.

43%

36%

Hewlett-Packard Co.

35%

39%

IBM Corp.

13%

16%

Oracle/Sun Microsystems

3%

4%

Cisco Systems Inc.

2%

1%

Application deployments as virtual workloads. Almost any workload can be deployed on a VM, including high-end database products like Microsoft SQL Server or email applications such as Exchange Server. In fact, Web servers, databases, network services and email platforms comprise the top four categories of workloads running on VMs.

Most applications are suited for virtual environments, with a few exceptions—any application that requires direct access to specific hardware can perform poorly or encounter errors when run on a VM. Table 5 compares applications deployed on VMs from 2010 through 2011. As the virtual environment matures and hypervisors become more stable, administrators will deploy more mission-critical workloads on a hypervisor.

Table 5 – Applications running on virtual machines

Application category 2011 results 2010 results

Web server

71%

69%

Database

58%

53%

Network services

53%

51%

Email

42%

37%

Accounting

41%

No data

Citrix (application-projection) software

33%

No data

Human resources

30%

No data

Business intelligence and data warehousing

30%

31%

Collaboration

28%

No data

E-commerce

19%

No data

CRM software

17%

26%

ERP software

16%

18%

Online transaction processing

13%

No data

Supply chain and logistics

10%

No data

High-performance computing (HPC)

9%

No data

Scientific

7%

No data

Manufacturing

6%

No data

Continued challenges of deploying virtualization. As much as virtualization has matured and evolved, IT pros still grapple with various concerns and challenges about the technology. DCD: 2011 asked respondents about their single greatest virtualization challenge in deploying virtualization. From a broad perspective, respondents clearly cite concerns over hardware and software setup and performance, as well as practical problems like deployment, backup and ongoing management. Table 6 lists the top 12 challenges IT pros face when virtualizing the data center.

Table 6 – Top virtualization challenges in 2011

Issue 2011 results

Server performance

14%

Application compatibility with virtualization platform

12%

I/O bottlenecks

11%

Costs

10%

Lack of in-house virtualization know-how

8%

Deploying new storage systems

8%

Backup challenges

6%

Application performance

5%

Network performance

5%

Configuration challenges

3%

Physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration problems

3%

Difficulty managing VMs

3%

Virtualization budgets and spending. Budgets and financial planning figure prominently into any virtualization discussion, and virtualization budgets are still expanding to meet the demand for greater deployment in the enterprise. In 2011, 56% of survey respondents indicated that their virtualization budget would increase, while 28% expected no change from the previous year. Only 4% of respondents expected a decline in their virtualization budget, which mirrors numbers from 2010.

The factors driving a virtualization budget increase remain essentially unchanged from 2010 to 2011; savings on hardware costs, reducing power demands and easing physical space constraints are among the biggest IT strategies that drive budget increases. Another factor is the issue of licensing. Even though the basic hypervisor is essentially “free,” licensing fees for production-grade use, OS copies for each VM and additional application copies can add up. Beyond licensing, an organization must acquire tools to configure, monitor and manage the virtual environment. Table 7 highlights a few reasons why virtualization budgets are bulking up.

Table 7 – Factors driving virtualization budget increases

Factor 2011 results 2010 results

Save on hardware costs

70%

69%

Modernize architecture

55%

64%

Reduce data center physical space

51%

56%

Save on power and cooling costs

50%

63%

Plan a private cloud architecture

23%

24%

Reductions in virtualization budgets generally come down to a matter of need. Of the few respondents that reported a budget reduction, economic and financial factors or the adoption of off-premises services from cloud providers and other external providers were the primary reasons for the dip on funds. In other cases, previous investments provided adequate infrastructure and performance, easing the near-term need for more virtualization spending.

Cloud computing and the data center
Data centers need to improve the way that hardware is provisioned, used and managed. The traditional paradigm of waiting weeks or months to bring up a new server is unacceptable today. Virtualization is an important step in streamlining this process, as it vastly increases hardware utilization, provides granularity over computing resources allocated to each workload and allows complete flexibility over the location and migration of each VM.

Cloud computing builds on virtualization, allowing organizations to dynamically and elastically provision servers on-demand. And because users often provision servers using self-service portals, cloud computing can also ease the burden on IT personnel.

“New technologies from companies like Layer 7 Technologies and PingIdentity allow IT administrators to mirror critical functions like Active Directory to the cloud,” Kleyman said. “This allows single sign-on as well as identity federation abilities for end users incorporating [Software as a Service] and [Platform as a Service].”

In a private cloud, organizations can leverage the benefits of cloud computing for certain applications, while still maintaining existing data center infrastructures. Conversely, a public cloud allows companies to outsource less-critical workloads to a public cloud services provider. This removes application and hardware requirements from the data center.

According to DCD: 2011 findings, cloud adoption is growing slowly, and only a few percentage points separate 2010 results from 2011 results. Most respondents are not yet using cloud technology, and only a small sampling of respondents have (or will) adopt some form of cloud computing over the next 12 months (Table 8). “I’m told by cloud peddlers that service providers and telcos are much more interested than ‘enterprises’ at the moment,” said Michael Cote, a software industry analyst with Seattle-based RedMonk.

Table 8 – Cloud adoption snapshot

Status 2011 results 2010 results

Not using/considering cloud computing

64%

69%

Have implemented private cloud now

9%

7%

Will implement private cloud over the next 12 months

7%

11%

Have implemented public and private cloud    now

6%

4%

Will implement public/private cloud in next 12 months

5%

No data

Will implement public cloud over the next 12 months

4%

6%

Have implemented public cloud now

4%

2%

Considering public and private cloud. Based on data collected between 2010 and 2011, cost and flexibility are the two drivers for companies choosing a public cloud provider (see Table 9). Outsourcing computing resources to a public provider allows an organization to create and scale resources, including creating new servers and allocating new CPUs, memory and so on, as-needed without requiring any capital investment. In effect, all of the capital expense that would have been incurred to provide a given amount of computing translates to operating expenses in the form of a monthly bill.

Table 9 – Motivations for considering public and private cloud infrastructures

Public cloud factors 2011 results 2010 results

Reduce infrastructure costs

41%

32%

Scalable infrastructure without up-front costs

18%

21%

More flexibility than traditional IT approaches

17%

26%

Company executives pushing the cloud

11%

4%

Reduce in-house IT staff costs

8%

11%

 

Private cloud factors 2011 results 2010 results

Leverage investment in existing infrastructure

36%

36%

Leverage the DR and BC benefits of the cloud

20%

17%

Provide users with self-service and automation

13%

11%

Public cloud advantages with increased security

10%

16%

Improve quality/speed of product development

8%

No data

Achieve better insight of resource use and costs

6%

6%

Keep IT in-house to control it and prevent outsourcing

6%

10%

Not considering implementing a private cloud

2%

3%

“It’s interesting to note that the main benefits respondents wanted were structural, process ones. Very few wanted to use the cloud for innovation; doing new things to drive growth that previously wasn’t possible,” Cote said. “Vendors would love for it to be the opposite. It’s easier to mark up the potential for profit than to put a high price tag on saving money.”

A private cloud allows organizations to take advantage of many of the benefits of cloud computing -- quick provisioning with dynamic and elastic resource scaling, for example -- while maintaining the infrastructure in-house. This can also maximize use of existing, and often expensive, IT infrastructure, as opposed to decommissioning and abandoning it.

According to DCD: 2011 survey data, the ability to retain that initial investment has been the single most compelling reason for private cloud adoption in both 2010 and 2011. Many businesses also leverage a private cloud for DR and business continuance. Beyond that, self-service and automation also make  a private cloud an attractive venture. SearchDataCenter.com expects these to remain driving factors well into the future.

This was first published in July 2011

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