Server Virtualization Adoption Growing Rapidly, Gartner Says

Currently only about 16 percent of workloads are running on virtual machines, according to Gartner. But that will jump to 50 percent by the end of 2012, and a key driver of the move will be SMBs, which are seeing price points drop far enough to enable them to take advantage of virtualization, analysts say at the annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. The Gartner analysts also caution businesses of all sizes to start small, but to keep thinking ahead.

Businesses aren't using server virtualization to the extent that many people might think, but use of the technology is going to grow rapidly, according to Gartner analysts.

At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Oct. 21 in Orlando, Fla., analysts said only 16 percent of current IT workloads are running on virtual machines. However, that's expected to increase to 50 percent by the end of 2012, and use of VMs will grow most quickly among small and midsize businesses.

Enterprises jumped on the virtualization bandwagon earlier than SMBs as they sought to consolidate servers, cut power costs and save on data center floor space, according to Gartner analyst Tom Bittman. However, by the end of 2010, there will be greater penetration of VMs among businesses with 100 to 999 employees than among the Global 500 enterprises.

"For years the entry point was simply too high for small enterprises," Bittman said in a statement. "But increased competition by server vendors has enabled smaller firms to embrace virtualization."

He said businesses large and small should take a cautious approach to virtualization, starting small. Doing so reduces risks and offers businesses time for a learning curve, as well as giving them a good foundation on which to grow.

Businesses also need to plan ahead for the changes-to both management and processes-that virtualization brings.

Bittman pointed out that virtualization is a way into cloud computing, but isn't cloud computing itself. It creates the changes required for cloud computing.

"What many organizations fail to recognize about virtualization is that the most important changes aren't technological, they are cultural," Bittman said. "Virtualization forces users to let go of the physical implementations of their services, and deal with their provider in terms of service levels and results. When a provider becomes a cloud computing provider, users need to do a more complete job of describing their requirements in service terms."