A survey conducted by IBM's main user group found that businesses are still interested in investing in virtualization despite the recession in the United States, although some companies are still grappling with how best to use the technology.
SHARE, an independent IBM user community, issued the results of the study Jan. 26. This survey of 388 IT professionals found that virtualization remains a technology still being learned and understood by their organizations, although many view it as a strategic necessity.
Looking toward the long-term, respondents also seemed to be on the road to adopting cloud computing as a viable virtualization strategy.
In addition, SHARE members were asked their opinion about cloud computing.
Cloud computing - seen by many in the IT world as the fast-emerging "next big thing" - centralizes computing power, storage and applications in a single data center, and then delivers these to users via the Internet. Late last year, IBM offered IBM Resilient Cloud Validation Services, designed to test the functionality and security of other companies' cloud computing systems; it joined others including Citrix, Microsoft and Google in pursuing cloud-computing opportunities.
At the moment, only 2 percent of those surveyed in the SHARE study were "significant users of external cloud computing resources," and 5 percent used "cloud-computing resources for some applications or systems."
Adoption levels may be low, but the survey suggests a trend among smaller companies as more likely to use cloud computing.
"Particularly for commoditized applications, it's easier for them to outsource it to the cloud than for larger companies," Jim Michael, vice president of SHARE, said in an interview. "There's an interest in cloud computing, and many are planning for it in their strategy, so they can move into it in a way that yields the best results."
The survey itself was initiated in December after SHARE members expressed interest in the trends surrounding virtualization, particularly in whether companies had begun using it strategically.
"The anecdotal information was interesting, and we wanted to have some hard data behind it," Michael said. "The hard data validates the anecdotal data: virtualization is on the radar for most enterprises, but the biggest challenge is the training and expertise of staff."
Indeed, some 32 percent of respondents felt that the greatest challenge towards their company's virtualization was "lack of expertise/available skills." Many organizations have also not fully embraced virtualization as part of a holistic IT strategy - the survey describes most virtualization efforts as "scattered or spotty."
Given the overwhelming need to cut operational and expansion costs in the midst of a recession, however, it also seems that these same organizations are coming around to the need for increased IT flexibility that virtualization offers.
While the percentage of respondents' IT budgets dedicated to virtualization currently stands at 29 percent, nearly half of them predicted that the cash available for virtualization would increase over the next 12 months (only 3 percent felt it would decrease). In the survey, some 29 percent of business managers were "very familiar" with the concept of virtualization, while 41 percent said they were "somewhat familiar."
SHARE is currently advocating virtualization and cloud computing as a way for IT departments to introduce an added degree of efficiency, an idea of particular importance during an economic downturn.
"It's more likely that those companies will make the strategic, considered investments in this sort of technology, because they can demonstrate that it's something that'll help them drive down the balance sheet," said Michael. "The concept of cloud computing seems to be where virtualization was five years ago" with regard to its position on the adoption curve.
Cloud virtualization may not be explosive short-term, Michel added, but will likely grow by leaps and bounds over the next 18 to 36 months as people adopt the technology more rapidly.
In conjunction with IBM, SHARE has been offering a reduced rate to students and people new to the profession at its upcoming Austin conference, as part of helping impart the knowledge and training their survey shows will be needed to fully integrate virtualization.