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The new architecture

01 Mar 2010

That being said, while increasing numbers of virtualisation deployments into production areas of the business are a key sign of continuing advancement, there is still some way to go. Migration of mission-critical applications, in particular, remains somewhat of a sticking point, according to Gartner.

Indeed, Principal Analyst Data Centre Systems for Gartner, Errol Rasit, says that as the economic outlook declined last year he saw many more customers consider virtualisation for the first time, particularly server virtualisation, as a tool to save money.

"A lot of our customers look at virtualisation as being an enabler technology," he says. By that he means it is a tool that not only allows consolidation, but enables businesses to progress to "a real-time infrastructure which would leverage policy-based computing; SLA-based computing, on-the-fly provisioning and so forth". This style of computing includes multiple-service strategies, such as cloud computing, and means that the IT in an organisation will be less of a service provider to the business, and more of a key business driver. "For us the next big thing in terms of virtualisation is moving towards this policy-driven infrastructure as more agile and responsive to business needs."

Facts and figures

Virtualisation’s impact on the overallIT industry has been dramatic, and virtualisation will continue to be the leading catalyst for infrastructure and operations software change through to 2013, says Gartner. However, virtualisation projects will only be successful if they are able to correctly manage the newly virtualised environments.

Gartner’s paper Virtual Machines and Market Share Through 2012 (October 2009)shows the IT consulting and implementation service market for virtualisation was worth $2761 million in 2009. By 2013, this will grow to $7889 million, representing a CAGR of 30% (see table below for more details). There is a huge opportunity for resellers still to be had from virtualisation implementation, consulting and services. This is not only in the server virtualisation infrastructure. Indeed the server virtualisation infrastructure, the server virtualisation management and the hosted virtual desktop software market combined was a $1.9 billion market in 2008 and will grow to $8.1 billion by 2013. The server virtualisation software market alone is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 28% from 2008 through 2013 (from $1.8 billion to $6.2 billion).

Although Gartner estimates 80% of large companies have already started on server virtualisation, penetration is still low – about 20% – which is a far cry from the 70% to 80% desired. Forrester Research suggests that large enterprises have 50-60% of their servers virtualised. Either way, server virtualisation and associated consulting and implementation services still have a lot of growth ahead of them, with forecasts that by 2012 virtualisation market penetration will grow to nearly 50%. Interestingly, it is only recently that the competition has begun to take market share from VMware. Forecasts show that Microsoft will be the next biggest player, with 27% market share by 2012 (see charts opposite for more information).

Analysts from both Forrester Research and Gartner agree that there wouldn’t be one enterprise-sized business that has not deployed some sort of virtualisation; however, penetration into the smaller business markets is not as advanced. Nonetheless, both pointed out the important role that Microsoft has had to play in this (reflected in its increasing market share, as illustrated below) and the relative ease and low cost with which server virtualisation can now be deployed, thanks to its inclusion in the Microsoft Small Business Server operating system.

As competition heats up in the virtualisation market, prices fall and access is granted to a wider range of businesses. This is a great opportunity for resellers to sell virtualisation into markets that previously could not afford it, and to bundle it with additional services. Forrester’s Tim Sheedy, Senior Analyst, says there are certain businesses that try to solve their IT problems in what they perceive is the cheapest way, but cause increased management costs and other inefficiencies by doing so. These business operators need to be alerted to their false economy, and that’s a job you can do. 

Next big thing

As we have already discussed, there is a lot more to be gained through virtualisation than simply consolidating servers. While this is the most advanced, analysts are pinpointing storage and desktop virtualisation as areas to look out for opportunities.

Sheedy of Forrester says: "I think desktop will consume many inches of press and storage will consume many dollars of budget this year."

He believes the cost-saving story is much stronger for storage virtualisation than desktop virtualisation, although he does not think you need to virtualise storage just because you have virtualised the server. The two virtualisation technologies offer different results; storage virtualisation is more of an aggregation technology, while server virtualisation divides hardware into more granular units.

Rasit of Gartner agrees: "Customers that move to server virtualisation need to think about, not necessarily storage virtualisation, but how they manage their storage in a virtualised server environment. Too many times we see server virtualisation improve server utilisation, but storage utilisation actually gets worse, so close management of their storage is going to be fundamental."

Gartner has also earmarked desktop virtualisation as a strong trend, predicting: "Serious uptake is expected to come in the next few years." At present, however, Forrester’s Sheedy says the desktop virtualisation solutions on the market don’t all work perfectly: "They all have something that they don’t do very well, so there’s still a lot of consolidation happening in the market," he explains, leading him to believe that desktop virtualisation will not take off this year.

That being said, the major business driver for virtualising the desktop is management and control of the IT environment, which fits well into the overall agile and managed IT infrastructure puzzle, so the technology is likely to be adopted in time.

The agile business

Resellers should view virtualisation as a journey towards a real-time infrastructure or towards a multisourcing cloud infrastructure. This means the information silos have been broken down and IT can be more agile and efficient, from wherever it is hosted or provisioned. For resellers, there will be value from a service and product perspective, by identifying the customer’s maturity and its three- to five-year plan and providing the IT pathway to achieve it efficiently and effectively.

"There are so many things that are beneficial and come from having a shared-service style IT, and virtualisation can help towards that. Virtualisation will be the business case that you build to drive that," explains Forrester’s Sheedy.

As customers embark on virtualisation for the first time now, it’s a good opportunity for you to advise them on how to manage their virtual estate from the word ‘go’, so it will naturally lead to the policy-driven architecture mentioned at the opening of this article. This is certainly something that resellers can look in to, as you move to a more service-based business, particularly managed services, which provide a regular, predictable and profitable revenue stream.

Added to this, as virtualisation underpins cloud computing technology, it would be wise to align yourselves with cloud computing providers and vendors that provide the management controls for virtualised infrastructures. As Rasit of Gartner says, the increasing penetration of virtualisation at all levels shows no signs of slowing down and will be the foundation and enabler of IT in the future.

By introducing agility into the business, IT becomes a key component of the business. "IT will then be the strategic weapon for differentiation at a business level," he concludes.

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