That virtualization can deliver major benefits to the enterprise is beyond question at this point. But in all the hype surrounding the technology, it helps to keep some perspective as to exactly what it can and cannot do.
Gartner came out with some good recommendations this week, reminding buyers that the efficiencies derived from server consolidation may be overblown, particularly if you end up trading physical server sprawl with virtual sprawl. The true benefits lie in management and productivity gains, allowing you to provision and deploy needed applications on virtual machines much more quickly than is possible in physical environments.
Migrating data to a new server is also greatly simplified with virtualization, according to this article on Sys-Con. Instead of a two-day process of synchronizing accounts, creating shared folders, migrating the actual data and then testing to make sure it all works, you simply create a replica of your server on a virtual partition and then reboot the entire thing on a new physical server whenever you're ready. The network still sees two servers, although the old one is now an application inside the new server's operating system.
There's also the benefit of extending the life of existing hardware, giving capital budgets some much needed breathing room. Chemical firm Baerlocher USA was facing nearly $2 million in hardware upgrades to its production environment, but instead mirrored the entire thing on VMware's Infrastructure 3 -- a move that also brought instant backup, recovery and other best-practice advantages.
Of course, not every virtualization story is one of success. This article in Byte & Switch highlights the trouble Warner Bros. ran into trying to get Microsft Exchange and Active Directory to run in virtual environments, and Portland, Ore.'s, Guardian Management's reluctance to run mission-critical software on virtual machines.
For many, virtualization has been a gift from the gods. But be careful not to hope for too much -- you'll only set yourself up for disappointment.