It may be too early to call it, but virtualization is looking like one of the most successful technologies to come down the pike for a good, long while. It's experienced especially rapid uptake among midmarket companies.
When I interviewed Gartner VP and analyst James Browning, he told me most midmarket companies (one of his research specialties) experienced few real problems when they virtualized servers .They were so successful that a surprising number of them are considering virtualizing more servers -- lots more. Browning predicts 40 percent of midsize companies will virtualize more than 80 percent of their server infrastructures by the end of 2012.
That sounds like a big number, and it is, but midmarket companies enjoy an advantage because they have fewer servers and fewer server applications than larger enterprises. In addition, many of them have standardized on x86 servers.
Midmarket CIOs encountered few technical hurdles during virtualization projects. The only challenge midmarket CIOs consistently mentioned to Browning was a relatively minor learning curve (slightly steeper for storage than for servers). And they saved their companies money, which improved IT's image among business executives during the recent recession.
So "we saw the midmarket start to accelerate their projects and just keep moving to the next physical servers at a more rapid pace than large enterprises," explained Browning. A good number of them are now moving to virtualize storage, to boost efficiency and provide affordable disaster recovery.
Midmarket CIOs are beginning to use the ability to run in a virtualized environment as a major criteria for new applications, Browning told me. Not only that, but they are considering jettisoning legacy apps that can't do so. Virtualization has already caused some midmarket CIOs to change their technology buying behavior. They deferred plans to buy blade servers because "they felt they accomplished the benefits of blade servers through their consolidation efforts," Browning said.
Virtualization isn't such a big win for the companies at the smaller end of the SMB spectrum, however. As IT Business Edge blogger Paul Mah wrote several months back:
In a nutshell, many of the "traditional" advantages such as space and power savings simply aren't noticeable by a small business with a motley assortment of two to five servers. Unless the servers are old and in dire need of replacement anyway, the amount of money required to get virtualization in place might never yield a ROI. The situation becomes worse if proper redundancy and failovers are implemented.