Server Virtualisation Scale-Up

Getting to grips with the practical reality

First published: June 2011

By Tony Lock & Dale Vile

KEY FINDINGS

Server proliferation is still a challenge, and consolidation is still work in progress
Despite widespread acceptance of virtual server solutions and their use to support server consolidation activities, a recent online survey of 458 IT professionals revealed that work is far from complete, and many organisations are still in the midst of server virtualisation projects.

Server virtualisation is now considered viable for a broader range of application types
The range of business applications and services for which server virtualisation is now considered to be an acceptable approach to service delivery is continuing to expand. A significant proportion of organisations participating in our study report that they are happy to consider almost all areas of IT service delivery to be suitable for virtualisation.

Organisations are unhappy with the cost of server virtualisation software licenses
Respondents report that the cost of licenses for virtualisation solutions is a specific challenge in their server consolidation projects. Project delays are one consequence of this, but anecdotal evidence also suggests that the issue is also encouraging some existing users to consider competitive alternatives, particularly when looking to scale up deployments.

Software vendors are still making deployment difficult in virtualised environments
IT professionals frequently report the licensing models proposed by some vendors of business applications and platform software such as database management and middleware to be unsuited to their virtualised environment, whilst significant numbers find the cost of licenses a challenge. Some vendors are still even resisting the provision of support for virtualised deployments.

Operational management of virtual systems can be challenging in live environments
The ongoing management of virtual systems poses problems for the tools, practices and processes utilised by IT administrators. This is placing considerable strain on systems administrators as the operational use of virtualised systems expands. Failure to anticipate the management and tooling implications of larger scale deployments as organisations ramp up is a significant factor here.

Proper planning and expectation management is key to scale-up success
While vendors often position server virtualisation as the cure for all IT ills, it is important to be realistic about the results that can be achieved in the real world. Some organisations, for example, report the cost of virtual server projects to be higher than expected, with unplanned spend on storage and networking infrastructure, as well as software, causing budget overruns. Experiences also suggest that expectations around server consolidation ratios are often inflated to unachievable levels. All of this highlights that initial experiences with investigations and pilots do not necessarily translate directly to larger scale implementations. While the business benefits of virtualisation can be significant, the success of broader deployments is directly dependent on sound and realistic planning.


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