Is 'VM Stall' the Next Big Virtualization Challenge?

Stalled virtualization deployment means the highly desirable outcomes of virtualization can stall or backslide. CA's Andi Mann discusses some of the possible causes for VM stall.

By Andi Mann
Tue, June 01, 2010

CIO — There appears to be a challenger to 'VM sprawl' as the scourge of virtualization success — a problem I call 'VM stall'.

We know about 'VM sprawl' — because new virtual machines are so easy to deploy, organizations can end up with more VMs that they can handle, or even use. This has the potential to cause severe problems to availability, performance, compliance, costs, security, and more.

However, I am seeing more and more evidence of this new phenomenon I think of as 'VM stall' — the tendency for virtualization deployments to stall once the 'low-hanging fruit' has been converted (typically around 20-30 percent of servers).

I think it happens more or less like this...

In general, organizations start virtualization deployments by converting relatively low-risk, low-impact systems — dev/test servers, Web servers, file servers, internal applications, etc. — to virtualization. With a big impact, great results, and reasonably fast and easy implementation, it is a great hit with IT and business owners. This may even spawn a 'virtual first' initiative, where all new server requests are deployed as virtual servers by default.

However, when faced with the next step, converting the remaining existing servers — including tier 1 business services, customer-facing environments, enterprise-wide systems, third-party applications, multi-platform services, and composite applications — virtualization projects often stall.

I was interested to see the notion of VM stall confirmed in some new research into virtualization coming out of Prism Microsystems, a software vendor in the SIEM market.

One of the most interesting outcomes in this research was again the low penetration of server virtualization within each organization. As the chart below shows, most organizations have still virtualized less than a third of their production servers.

What's more, fully 15 percent have not even started to virtualize their production servers at all!

It might seem that this is really at odds with 'the common wisdom' that sees virtualization as mature, ubiquitous, commoditized, and even passé. We hear so much about virtualization, how it has been a top priority for years, about how everyone is deploying virtualization. For example:

  • The IBM Global CIO Study 2009 in September showed 76 percent of 2500 global CIOs are undergoing or planning virtualization projects.
  • The Gartner 2010 CIO Survey in January reported that virtualization is the top priority for over 1,500 global CIOs (up from number 3 the previous year).
  • In January, CDW's Server Virtualization Life Cycle Report (registration required) found that 90 percent of respondents have implemented server virtualization at some level.
  • As far back as 2008, EMA research showed 75 percent of enterprises were using virtualization for production use cases.
  • The Prism Microsystems report the chart above comes from states that 85 percent of their sample have adopted virtualization to some degree.

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