by Laurianne McLaughlin

Virtualization in the Enterprise Survey: Your Virtualized State in 2008

Jan 02, 20088 mins
Data CenterVirtualization

Users are working hard to manage complex IT environments while figuring out how far they can push server virtualization without sacrificing application service levels, according to CIO's first survey on virtualization.

You’re knee-deep in virtualization, and you love the ROI that you’ve seen so far. But you’re also grappling with tough technical and political challenges posed by today’s hottest technology, according to CIO’s first survey on virtualization.


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The top challenges? First, figuring out just how far you can push your physical servers by piling on more and more virtual machines (VMs) without slowing down application service levels, and next, getting experts from across IT silos to plan and manage the virtualized environment together. “Nobody likes change, even when there is often a better way of doing things,” says Stephen Elliot, a research manager with IDC (a sister company to’s publisher). “It takes work and a mindset to reinvent IT and ourselves.”

The good news: The payback on virtualization really pops. Server virtualization, in particular, is spreading a lot of love; so far, happiness is harder to come by on the desktop.

Here’s what nearly 300 CIOs who responded to the survey shared about their experiences to date with the virtualization mega-trend, along with forward-looking advice to help you make the most of virtualization efforts in the year ahead (Numbers on some tables may not add to 100 percent due to rounding). Click to share your own experiences with virtualization.

Not Just For Servers Anymore

While many enterprises started their virtualization efforts with test and development servers in the data center, today’s pioneers are virtualizing desktop PCs, running them from a VM on a server in the back room or running VMs on top of a guest operating system on the local machine.

Where You Use Virtualization

Servers or Data Center 85%
Storage 37%
Desktops 34%
None of the above 8%

(Respondents chose all that apply)

SOURCE: CIO Research

Masters of Virtual Disaster Recovery

In addition to the obvious cost-cutting benefits, a desire for better disaster recovery plans drives many CIOs to adopt virtualized servers. IT leaders like Vincent Biddlecombe, CTO of logistics provider Transplace, use VMs to copy their production servers to disaster recovery facilities. As for flexibility and speed, Biddlecombe can provision a new server in 30 minutes instead of a week. When a Transplace business executive needs a new customer demonstration environment, IT can do in half an hour.

Reasons to Virtualize Servers

Cut costs via server consolidation 81%
Improve disaster recovery and backup plans 63%
Provision computing resources to end users more quickly 55%
Offer more flexibility to the business 53%
Provide competitive advantage 13%

(Respondents chose up to three)

SOURCE: CIO Research

Now, Play Nicely

Technical woes rank higher—to be expected when CIOs deploy a new technology such as virtualization. However, the politics pain many of you. Remember, virtualization not only asks people to cede some control over their physical server kingdoms, but also asks IT experts from different realms to work more closely together. “Virtualization success depends on tight cooperation between server, storage, network and security teams,” says Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf. “Getting divisions that operate as independent silos to work together presents a very difficult challenge.” Strong executive support, says Wolf, is crucial.

What’s Harder? Technology or Politics?

Technical challenges 58%
Political/organizational challenges 42%

SOURCE: CIO Research

Ensuring Application Speed a Must

Efficiency won’t save IT from a big black eye if you’ve put too many VMs on one physical server and key business apps run too slowly. CIOs understand this danger full well: Nearly two-thirds of you call balancing server workloads or maintaining application service levels one of your three biggest challenges to success. But those nasty political issues loom large, as does the difficulty of measuring ROI on your efforts.

Top Challenges to Virtualization Success

Balancing server workloads and maintaining application service levels 64%
IT organization politics 37%
Measuring ROI 30%
Governance 24%
Pushback from business leaders 20%
Revamping chargeback systems for the business 20%
None of the above/not applicable 11%

(Respondents chose up to three)

SOURCE: CIO Research

A Red Flag: Not Enough Attention to Integration

Although almost half of you are shelling out for new tools to ensure that application service levels stay strong, you’re not paying enough mind to integrating the teams that run your virtual environments.

Chris Wolf, senior analyst with Burton Group, says it’s a problem that so few IT groups have created “center of excellence” teams that bring together experts from across the IT silos. “Some organizations still have the misconception that server virtualization is a server team issue, he says, when in fact server virtualization relies heavily on network and storage integration. Experience helps. “Organizations that have been running virtualization in production for one or more years understand the need for a center of excellence,” says Wolf.

How You’re Tackling Technical and Political Challenges

Doing quick win projects to prove initial success 77%
Investing in new virtualization maintenance tools to balance workload/maintain application service levels 43%
Creating a virtualization “center of excellence” committee with representatives from all parts of IT 20%
Reorganizing IT organization chart 14%

(Respondents chose all that apply)

SOURCE: CIO Research

No Consultants, Please

Virtualization expertise represents a precious commodity today: Most CIOs struggle to find enough of it. But you’re not using consultants as widely as you did with the last wave of technology change—the ERP makeovers and CRM implementations. Why? “One CIO recently told me that he loves virtualization because ‘It just works,'” says IDC’s Elliot. That means less work for consultants. But it’s hard to learn as you go with virtualization, adds Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf: A consultant can help you avoid blunders like security mistakes, he says.

How You Find Virtualization Gurus

Hire or develop in-house talent 73%
Hire consultants 23%
Planning to hire or develop in-house talent 17%
Planning to hire consultants 8%
None of the above/Not applicable 4%

(Respondents chose all that apply)

SOURCE: CIO Research

Taking Desktop Virtualization Slowly

There are almost as many of you who have virtualized desktops or plan to have them within a year as there are those who have no intention of deploying this technology. Why is desktop virtualization such a polarizing idea? Desktop virtualization proves complex to optimize, analysts say, and planning for it requires more time. “These technologies are not a one size fits all. It takes time to figure out your users’ needs and plan the implementation,” says Forrester Research Senior Analyst Natalie Lambert. “I don’t think CIOs are afraid of user backlash. One of the benefits to hosted desktop virtualization is it looks and feels just like a desktop computer. That’s in IT’s favor.”

Virtual Desktops a Hard Sell

Currently using virtual desktops 25%
Will deploy within one year 13%
Will deploy within one to three years 21%
Will deploy within three to five years 5%
No plans to use virtualized desktops 37%

SOURCE: CIO Research

It’s the Time and Money, Honey

It still takes too much money and time to manage desktop PCs, so it’s no surprise that cutting IT administrative and support costs tops the reasons for choosing virtual desktops. Long term, security advantages will also prove important, analysts say, even though they’re not top of mind right now. “Companies that build their business case around security and manageability are most advanced in their adoption of desktop virtualization,” says Forrester Research Senior Analyst Natalie Lambert. Still think desktop virtualization is an idea you can dismiss outright? Citrix made a $500 million bet in 2007 that you’re wrong, when it purchased XenSource to marry Citrix’s experience in thin clients and Xen’s experience in virtualization.

Why Deploy Virtual Desktops?

Reduce administration and support costs 62%
Provision systems to the end users more quickly 53%
Simplify maintenance 45%
Reduce hardware costs 36%
Improve data security 31%
Improve network security 18%
Other 13%

(Respondents chose all up to three)

SOURCE: CIO Research

Happy Days Are Here Again

Few ROI calculations please 85 percent of CIOs. The ROI on server virtualization does, even though you’re struggling to measure it precisely. Today, virtualization helps many CIOs reduce costs on a massive scale while improving flexibility to the business. That’s been the experience of Credit Suisse CIO Tom Sanzone, whose efforts we profiled earlier this year. CIOs in enterprises large and small tell the same story: It is easy to wow the business side with the returns. No wonder you’re smiling.

Virtualized Servers: You Love the ROI

Very satisfied 37%
Satisfied 48%
Not very satisfied 6%
Not at all satisfied 2%
Not sure 8%

SOURCE: CIO Research

Payback on the Desktop Takes Longer to Measure

Sixty percent of you are pleased with the payback on virtual desktops, but a notable 27 percent say you’re just not sure. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as Forrester Senior Research Analyst Natalie Lambert notes, given that desktop virtualization is more complex to optimize than server or storage virtualization. Also, analysts say, calculating the ROI of virtual desktops accurately depends on having good figures on pre-virtualization PC costs. Meanwhile, desktop virtualization is also the newest effort of the three at most enterprises, which means it may be too early to measure returns accurately.

Desktop Virtualization: Fewer Smiling Faces

Very satisfied 19%
Satisfied 41%
Not very satisfied 9%
Not at all satisfied 5%
Not sure 27%

(Respondents chose all that apply)

SOURCE: CIO Research