Meanwhile, server virtualization pioneer VMware thoroughly dominates the market. Almost 90% of respondents are either deploying or plan to deploy VMware, compared to just less than 40% for IBM LPAR (logical partition) and about 35% for Microsoft Virtual Server.
“VMware is by far the most popular form of virtualization followed by IBM LPAR and Microsoft Virtual Server,” said Gill.
Despite soaring popularity and massive vendor/media hype, virtualization is far from everywhere. Part of the problem may be simple economics. Levin of MBA points out that virtualization doesn’t actually buy a whole lot of cost reduction. The only real savings for now are in terms of server hardware.
“By reducing the server footprint, you buy back a little space, a little capacity, and maybe less electrical spending,” said Levin. “But that doesn’t add up to a whole lot.”
He believes the real gains come when common images are used, i.e. every Windows image used in the enterprise, or at least on a large number of servers.
“The number of people required to maintain Windows accounts for 49% of data center spending,” said Levin. “If you eliminate all the one-offs, you can make a big dent on the personnel side of the budget.”
MBA has benchmarked a number of data centers in the past year that are implementing standard server images and minimalized the number of one-offs. On average, said Levin, the technical services organizations for these data centers are smaller than the norm by 30-to-40 percent.
Richard Villars, an analyst with International Data Corp (IDC), highlights another angle on the virtualization economics debate: IDC studies show the percentage change in server shipments has been plummeting since the end of 2003.
For the last quarter of 2006, it was less than two percent. This is the lowest increase in many years. He calls this the virtualization effect—spending on servers is increasing yet unit growth has stalled. Conclusion: Companies are using virtualization to contain the growth in server numbers rather than harnessing the technology to completely alter the underlying management framework of the data center.
That is supported by TIP. Despite server sprawl, data centers are expected to do more with less.
“2007 server budgets are expected to remain fairly flat with 2006 levels,” said Gill. “Simple consolidation for cost cutting is still the dominant factor for deploying virtualization.”