Server Virtualization Meets SMB IT Challenges: Aberdeen

SMBs that deploy server virtualization can significantly reduce the amount of time required to deploy new apps, while reducing downtime and IT spending.

Server virtualization addresses many IT challenges small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face, a new study from Aberdeen Group finds. SMBs with server virtualization reduced the amount of time required to deploy a new application by 53 percent, and reduced applications downtime by 30 percent, the study found.

Other benefits cited include a reduction in data center space and overall IT spending, including for power and cooling. The report, "Solving the Unique Computing Challenges of Small and Mid-sized Businesses," based on a survey of 137 enterprises last year, finds that IT departments face two major challenges—flat budgets so they "are being asked to do more with less," and the need to store more data.

As an example, SMB respondents said the amount of data needed to be stored grew 32 percent from 2011 to 2012, on average. This translates into twice the number of storage devices, space in the data center, and spending required every 2.5 years, said Aberdeen. However, respondents said they spent only 12 percent of their IT budget on storage in 2012.

Faced with these challenges, the report indicates that SMBs have solved these issues with server virtualization, where a layer of virtualization software sits between the server hardware and software. This allows for more applications to run on the server. The hypervisor software enables the operating system and application to move between servers and/or allocate more computing and memory resources to it during times of high demand, said Aberdeen.

The report reveals that 58 percent of the SMBs' applications are deployed on virtualized servers. But most of the deployments center on Tier 2 or "light business or departmental applications," which include payroll systems, employee expense reimbursement, and Web. The primary benefit: More applications on fewer servers.

Virtualizing Tier 1 applications continues to be a challenge for SMBs, said Aberdeen. The report indicates that SMBs have lagged behind in the deployment of their mission-critical enterprise applications on virtualized servers. These applications include customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), which tend to gobble up an entire server's capacity or require high uptimes. Aberdeen predicts this rate will grow as organizations see the benefits of server virtualization.

Some of these benefits include improved server virtualization rates. Survey respondents said they were able to consolidate 9.8 servers onto one server and decrease data center power consumption by 7 percent, on average. But the average server utilization rate of these SMBs is pegged at 45 percent, which is significantly lower than the 80 percent rate recommended by server vendors, according to Aberdeen.

The upshot: Aberdeen recommends that SMBs continue to deploy server virtualization to get the biggest return on their IT investment dollars, but those servers need to handle high levels of server virtualization to yield the greatest financial and operational benefits.