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Complex server virtualization setups thwart ROI

Organizations using multiple server virtualization platforms find it difficult to calculate cost savings.

CIOs are turning to server virtualization in large numbers, but many can't say whether their virtualization deployments are successful.

Forty-four percent of companies that have deployed server virtualization are unsure whether their deployments have been successful, according to a survey published by CA Inc., the Islandia, N.Y.-based IT vendor.

CA's research was conducted by The Strategic Counsel, a Toronto-based independent research firm, which surveyed 800 organizations around the world.

The survey revealed that 71% of organizations that have transitioned to virtualization have deployed or plan to deploy multiple server virtualization technologies.

Indeed, the rapid adoption of server virtualization has led to heterogeneous environments that are proving difficult to manage and nearly impossible to assess. CIOs don't have a clear view into how their virtualization efforts are working. In fact, 28% of organizations polled in the survey that said they deployed virtualization have either failed to, or are unsure if, they realized a return on investment. And 40% said they have either failed to achieve expected cost savings or they simply couldn't tell.

Andi Mann, an analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, said heterogeneous virtualized environments are initially the result of bad practices.

"There's a lack of control in IT that's allowing different types of virtualization to spawn up without going through normal processes," Mann said. "System administrators are just firing up virtual machines that they download for free. They have problems with workloads and they've got deadlines to meet, and they do not have enough time to do testing."

CA's research revealed that heterogeneous virtualized environments can lead to server sprawl; increased configuration and administration requirements and workloads; difficulty with reporting, visibility and metrics for measuring server efficiency, performance and utilization; and higher demand for IT staff members with multiple skills sets.

System administrators are just firing up virtual machines that they download for free.

Andi Mann, analyst, Enterprise Management Associates

"I do think that some companies approach the whole [virtualization] process in a much more haphazard way than others do," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif.

King said he studied one company that stumbled badly with its first implementation. The company tried to virtualize a bunch of applications on one box without testing it. The box crashed.

"They said, 'I guess we should have tested it.' They learned a valuable lesson. They've since instituted a very structured approach to virtualization with a testing process."

King said CA's findings on heterogeneous virtualization environments were interesting.

"I think the fact that the virtualization solutions are heterogeneous reflects the fact that data centers themselves typically deploy multiple types of server hardware," King said. "I don't know of anything that supports virtualization on every type of server platform out there. Does it make it more difficult? Well it can. What it really points to is the importance of sitting down and planning which servers you want to virtualize, which tools are most effective, and deploying it in a very strategic manner to get a specific kind of results."

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