Users at the conference said virtualization has become a key technology in their data centers. Scott Hill, chief technology officer for Akron, Ohio-based investments firm Oak Associates, said in an interview that he first investigated virtualization in 2003, and that that almost 80 percent of his data center is now virtualized. He is running an average of six VMware virtual machines on each physical two-way Dell server. About half of those virtual servers are running in a production environment. The key benefits have been lower power and cooling costs, easier management, server consolidation and server utilization.Oak Associates had standardized on the two-way Dell systems, and "for some things, it was just right. But for other things, it was overkill," Hill said. "[The application] just didnt need that much server."In addition, he said if a developer requests a server for testing and development purposes, it now takes about an hour to prepare a virtual machine, compared with the two to four weeks it can take to order and configure a physical server. He also is using virtualization technology in other parts of his data center, including using an EMC Clariion storage area network. Dan Raczkowski, IT consultant for News America, a division of News Corp., told conference attendees that utilization of servers was in the 5 to 10 percent range just over a year ago. Single applications such as Microsoft SQL Server database were running on a single system, which he called "an unbelievable waste of space. One of the things about having a data center in New York is price. Its incredibly expensive." Consolidating workloads on virtual machines means fewer physical boxes. In addition, when the company was looking to consolidate its J.D. Edwards applications, News Corp. was advised by third parties to buy 18 two-way servers for 80 users. Instead, the company bought four four-way Sun Fire BV40z systems from Sun Microsystems running Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chips, and put VMware virtual systems on top of those. News Corp. now has as many as 16 virtual machines running on a single physical server. The efficiencies will increase as chip makers Intel and AMD bring hardware-level virtualization to their processors, the users said. Intel on Feb. 6 announced that the Intel Virtualization Technology on its "Paxville" Xeon MP chip, which started shipping in the fall, can now be activated. Intel plans to outfit all of its server and client chips with the technology. AMD will debut its virtualization technology in the middle of this year. On Feb. 6, the company announced the availability of its I/O virtualization technology specification. The spec will enable chip set and software vendors to virtualize I/O devices that can be easily mapped to virtual machines, said Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions for AMD. Editors Note: This story was updated to correct Raghu Raghurams title. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest utility computing news, reviews and analysis.