Analysis: Virtual hot potatoes

Virtualisation providers like EMC and Microsoft aim to roll technology out to all companies, from the largest to the smallest

You probably don't need me to tell you just what a hot potato server virtualisation is at present, but if you do a recent Yankee Group survey makes interesting reading.

According to the survey 75% of companies are planning to deploy server virtualisation with over 60% of those questioned having done so already. Most of the companies cited infrastructure cost reduction and enhanced resource utilisation as the main drivers and of those already using virtualisation, half reported clearly attributable cost benefits.

Interestingly, the benefits weren't confined just to large to corporates. The survey of 1,700 managers and executives covered companies of all sizes, ranging from multinationals with over 100,000 employees all the way down to small businesses with fewer than 50 to.

Less than 4% said they had no plans to deploy virtualisation which, given the relative immaturity of the products on offer, is unprecedented.

When it came to products the vendor split was also illuminating. VMWare, part of the EMC group, was the clear leader with its ESX and GSX Server software employed by over 55% of the survey respondents. Microsoft came second, but the biggest eye opener was the relative lack of interest in the other providers, including XenSource, who were widely viewed as small niche players.

Given the huge amount of interest in server virtualisation the spate of squabbles and jockeying for position among vendors is understandable. Particularly the recent agreement between Microsoft and XenSource which according to Brian Byun, VMWare Vice President of Products and Alliances appears to benefit Microsoft a lot more than the open source minnow.

"It's a one-way street that favours Microsoft and Windows running Linux," commented Byun in a recent blog entry. "The arrangement will allow Linux to run on future Microsoft hypervisors through translated calls when Windows is controlling the hardware, but not the other way around."

Byun also accuses XenSource of "diverging from its open source and Linux virtualization roots." A little over the top, perhaps, but VMWare itself is increasingly leading on open standards, something which it believes will both help maintain its market leadership and stave off Microsoft, which is equally keen to herd server virtualisation into the proprietary Windows fold.

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