Time for a Virtual Backlash?


Is a backlash against virtualization starting to brew?


You have to admit, the technology has enjoyed a very enthusiastic reception for the past several years, thanks largely to its cost-saving capabilities in times of rising energy prices. But now that virtualization is moving from the test bed to heavy production environments, its limitations are becoming more obvious.


A recent survey of Interop attendees by systems integrator ScienceLogic showed that 63 percent of respondents rated virtualization as important to their operations. A healthy number, yes, but a significant drop from last year's 75 percent. What's more, the portion that report having virtualization management tools at the ready dropped from 35 percent to 27 percent, while those planning to implement virtual management in the next year declined from 48 percent to 39 percent.


For a growing number of enterprises, the reality behind the hype is becoming clear: Virtualization is not the savior of the enterprise. A recent poll from Actionable Research saw 24 percent of respondents reporting the temporary loss of a virtual server, while 18 percent reporting a permanent loss. Nearly half (45 percent) say their IT staffs lack the expertise to properly manage virtual environments.


This could only be the tip of the iceberg unless enterprises do more to prepare their networks for virtualization, according to IT consultant Marc Staimer. He says there are four main bottlenecks in the typical enterprise that will be in need of some TLC if the promise of virtualization is to be maintained. The virtual server, disk drives and target storage systems, storage ports and the SAN fabric itself all face overprovisioning issues if virtualization is pushed too far, too fast.


Those are problems that can be addressed as the technology evolves. An even greater drawback is the myriad half-truths and outright lies that have been peddled over the past decade or so, according to Amrit Williams, aka the Tech Buddha. He lays a number of them out in his blog, including the widely touted claims of improved management and security -- and he takes a number of pokes at the many cost-reduction tenets of virtualization boosters.


These kinds of backlashes play an important role in technology evolution by providing a much-needed reality check. But the danger here is in pushing it too far by concluding all the initial promises of virtualization to be false.


Just about every technological development has a backlash at one time or another. And in general, the greater the hype, the more vigorous the backlash. But that doesn't mean either one is any more valid than the other. Was virtualization overhyped? Sure. But that certainly doesn't mean that any drawbacks that do emerge are deal-breakers.