A recent article in InfoWorld on underreported tech stories of the year listed server virtualization not living up to the hype as the number two story. Rightfully so! According to the article, overall utilization is still at 18 percent - and utilization of x86 servers is one-third lower at 12 percent. Why? Server virtualization has stalled, and largely in part due to the economy. While virtualization was reaching all-time highs from 2008-2010, some budget constraints forced companies to not use virtualization technology to their advantage or full potential.
From InfoWorld: 'A survey by ESG Research published in November showed that only 39 percent of the VMs currently deployed are in production environments; a survey earlier in the year by Prism Microsystems found that just 30 percent of production servers have been virtualized.' The problem is also that as IT consolidated and virtualized in-house applications like email, Web, and file and test servers; those are 'owned' by IT and, although important, are not generally seen as mission-critical. More mission-critical applications (like financial applications) have not been virtualized, due to perceived difficulty of monitoring performance and availability in a virtualized environment.
Our survey back at FOSE in March showed this trend of low numbers of virtualized servers by indicating more planned installations of virtualization management tools in 2010 (38% compared to 23% in 2009), but only an small increase of actual tools in place (32% vs. 29% in 2009). The survey also showed that data center consolidation and virtualization were right behind cloud computing as top government agency initiatives. The federal government knows about underutilization, as they rush to consolidate their servers based on the federal mandate laid out in 2010. However, if the government is to follow the private sector trend, then perhaps we can still expect to see rather low utilization numbers, with over 80% of servers not being used. That's a lot of space and a lot of money!
If cloud computing continues to follow the virtualization trend (based on hype and media trends), then one has to wonder if two years from now we'll see some sort of stalled growth in the cloud computing space. The benefit the cloud has over server virtualization is the upward economy and the promise of the cloud. People are much more likely to spend money on tools and technologies that help them to be more efficient or save money, which should help keep cloud growth steady. Only time will tell, but hopefully in a year we will see an increase in both cloud computing and server virtualization.