Virtualization Adoption Growing, but Security a Concern: Survey

Businesses are rapidly adopting server virtualization in their data centers, and plan to continue the high growth rate, according to a survey conducted by Centrify. More than half of the respondents said they use VMware technologies, though many also use solutions from such vendors as Citrix, HP, IBM, Sun and Microsoft. Still, the rush to save money through virtualization has not dampened concern over the security of these virtualized data centers.

The rate of adoption of server virtualization technologies is growing rapidly in businesses large and small, though security concerns remain the largest hurdle to deployment, according to a recent survey by identify and access management vendor Centrify.

In a survey of 480 IT professionals released Sept. 1, Centrify found that almost 26 percent of those surveyed had virtualized at least half of their systems and that by the end of 2010 that number will double to 51 percent.

Not surprisingly, VMware has the deepest penetration into these businesses, with a 60 percent presence, and 32 percent said they use VMware exclusively. Half of those who use VMware said they plan to increase their use of the vendor's technology, and half said they will probably evaluate other technologies as well.

However, most businesses-58 percent-have a mixed environment, using virtualization technology from a number of sources, not only from VMware and Citrix Systems, but also offerings built into such operating systems as Windows, HP-UX, IBM's AIX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Linux. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they don't use VMware products at all, choosing to use technologies from Citrix, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, HP and others, either together or exclusively.

However, though the use of server virtualization is growing rapidly, IT administrators continue to have concerns over security. One respondent told Centrify that there was a rush at his business to adopt virtualization for the cost savings, but that not enough attention was paid to security issues.

At 46 percent, security was the leading reason virtualization adoption could be slowed, according to the survey. Seventy percent of respondents said they thought they had orphan accounts in their Unix or Linux environments, 44 percent shared root passwords, and 55 percent were unsure whether they were managing privileged user accounts.

"The diversity of virtual platforms in organizations will create new vulnerabilities," Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management at Centrify, said in a statement. "Because creating a new server in a virtual environment is as easy as copying a file-and in some instances, the software is free-the rigor that used to accompany setting up a server has been bypassed."

Businesses are using a variety of technologies to secure their data centers, from directory-based solutions-such as Active Directory and LDAP Directory-to passwords to role-based controls with user authentication.

Still, 28 percent of respondents said they were confident in the security of their servers, and less than 20 percent were strongly confident about their virtualized data centers.