Despite the growing prominence of server virtualization in data centers, many IT managers are concerned about their ability to manage virtual environments effectively.According to a new study sponsored by Islandia, N.Y.-based CA Inc. of 300 IT managers worldwide, 54% of large enterprises rate virtual machine management as a critical or high IT priority, but only 45% said that their companies are doing an effective job in managing the technology.
"Management is low on the priority list when it comes to virtualization," said Nasser Ansari, principal product manager at CA, which makes management tools. "Companies are at the point where they are trying to get their hands on the technology and move it from test environment into production, so things like systems management and ROI analysis don't come until later."
CA commissioned the survey, which targeted worldwide companies with more than $250 million in revenue, to identify virtualization user concerns and issues, and it will use the data to create management products over the next year, Ansari said.Virtual machine management on the rise?
The study asked respondents about the primary drivers of virtualization, expected utilization rates for virtual and physical servers, important aspects of virtualization management, and a host of questions about virtualization technology uses. Among respondents, platform centralization has become a core concern.
Among respondents, 56% use multiple platforms and vendors for server virtualization management, while 35% have standardized on a single platform. Sixty-eight percent of respondents rate the importance of centralizing the management of multiplatform virtualized or physical environments as critical or very important.
Such responses showcase the gap between the investments in virtualization and in management; most people are managing on only one platform and need to centralize," said Lakshmi Pedda, a product marketing manager at CA. "We think management will become more of a priority in the next eight to 10 months, as virtualization becomes mainstream and people start seeing issues like virtual server sprawl."
Analyst Chris Wolf at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group said that a large number of enterprises run several virtualization platforms in production and want to manage all resources under one pane of glass.
"Management will always be tiered, and point products will always require their own management tools to manage some elements of their architecture, but top-level orchestration and reporting will be a very important part of data center automation," Wolf said. "Even before we start seeing elements of the automated data center, the immediate reporting and management benefits of a consolidated management architecture are needed today, and all of the major enterprise management software vendors are developing tools in that area."
Some of the companies offering virtual machine management tools, including VMware Inc., which bought virtual machine management company Dunes Technologies in September; Fortisphere Inc., Cassatt Corp. and Embotics Corp.. Vendors like Hewlett-Packard Co. also sell their own management software, such as the ProLiant Essentials Virtual Machine Management Pack for ProLiant servers.
Of management concerns, security topped the list as the most significant challenge when managing server virtualization initiatives.
In addition, those polled said that servers, storage and applications are the most important areas to virtualize. They had the most success in virtualizing servers, and the least success in virtualizing application grids. Of U.S. companies planning to invest in virtualization over the next 18 months, 88% said that they are investing in server virtualization, 65% in storage virtualization, and 47% are doing application virtualization.
"This confirms what we are hearing from our installed base: that server virtualization is becoming mainstream," said Pedda.
Further, while many companies use virtualization to save on power and cooling costs, only 28% of respondents worldwide have been able to measure the ROI on virtualization. At the same time, 51% said they are confident that their companies have maximized the return on virtualization investments.
According to Pedda, as virtualization becomes the norm in IT environments, ROI plans will become more prominent.
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