Virtualisation has obvious benefits in all kinds of scenarios, and recent figures suggest that more than half of Australian enterprises have virtualised some of their workloads. But why isn't the uptake broader?
Picture by Rob Ellis
According to research firm Telsyte, 56 per cent of Australian enterprises are making some use of virtualisation technology for servers, with an average of 42 servers having been moved to virtual servers. That's a healthy start, but it still means that the overall number of server workloads that have been virtualised is still relatively low.
Scott Robertson, vice president channels and alliances for WatchGuard, estimates that the total uptake of virtualisation in Australia is more like nine per cent. "Virtualisation is almost a cut-copy-paste operation these days. If you have eight or nine per cent penetration, what are the other 90 per cent doing?" he asked at a press event discussing virtualisation and private cloud issues in Sydney yesterday. It's a question with many possible answers, but here are some issues that can slow down virtualisation.
Securing virtualised applications can be complicated. "There's a belief that security is somewhat inherent in virtualised platforms," said Robertson, but the reality is that problems in one workload can potentially cause issues for a whole server. "Those lines of demarcation become really important in virtual environments." As Robertson pointed out, virtualisation often complicates firewalling because you need to protect multiple apps on a single device, rather than designing firewalls to work with single-application servers.
Confusion over data storage
In a complex virtualised environment, backup strategies can become more complex, but not all companies handle the transition equally well. "We have enquiries every single week where we talk about helping with virtualisation, but a lot of clients we talk to don't understand how their data is set up; with thin provisioning, they don't know where the data is on the servers," said Adrian Briscoe, APAC general manager for data recovery firm Kroll Ontrack.
Virtualising servers can also be complicated by the need to adjust other systems such as power supplies and management. "Moving to a virtualised platform was the easy part," Richard Jenman, ANZ managing director for Eaton. "Moving a power protection system to a virtualised environment is very challenging."
It doesn't work for everything
As we've noted before, virtualisation is not a universal solution for tech deployment. With Exchange Servers, for instance, the benefits can be minimal.
Weighing up the cloud
Many organisations have turned their attention to private or public cloud solutions, a shift which often de-emphasises virtualisation. (Many cloud hosting companies offer virtualised environments, but one solution doesn't necessarily imply the other.)
That solution isn't without issues either. "My concern is that private cloud gives the opportunity for clients to quickly start another server, but there has to be fundamental planning behind how you bring them on," said Briscoe.
Cost assessment is also vital in that scenario. "The great misnomer of public cloud is that it will be cheaper," said Pieter DeGunst, director of sales and marketing at Tecala. "It isn't necessarily true, depending on what you're doing."
What issues have slowed or stopped virtualisation in your workplace? Tell us in the comments.
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