The Real Value in Virtualization

There’s no doubt that virtualization has had a tremendously positive impact on the data center. One could even argue that it has single-handedly enabled the IT industry to avoid the dire economic straits that have plagued the rest of the global economy.

But aside from consolidation and overall reduction in hardware costs, can anyone definitively say exactly how virtualization has improved things from purely a data performance perspective? Composite Software took a crack at that one recently with an online survey of developers, admins, BI professionals and the odd CIO looking to see where the value proposition of virtualization lies. The survey’s 143 respondents are admittedly a small sample, but the insights are telling.

Aside from reducing infrastructure costs and complexity, the top benefits are the improvement of data delivery and access and the ability to make data sources and infrastructure transparent to users. These, in turn, have improved workforces’ ability to meet deadlines and service level agreements by enhancing a number of enterprise functions, such as business analytics and intelligence, real-time data-sharing, warehousing and cloud computing. The takeaway here is that virtualization has both short-term and long-term benefits, which makes it one of those rare technologies that has real staying power.

This is evident in the growing number of enterprise-grade tools designed to take advantage of the improved data management opportunities of virtual environments. A company called Queplix, for example, has set out to tap into the technology’s ability to provide a single data set for multiple applications through a new metadata server that links data to platforms ranging from SAP and Oracle to online services like Salesforce. Not only does it reduce storage burdens, it provides a consistent data set for all users, vastly improving workforce efficiency.

To be sure, some areas need improvement. Licensing, for one, remains a major hassle, according to Gartner, because many of the agreements and structures in place for virtual solutions do not adequately match actual data center practices. That forces customers to adopt rigorous new monitoring and management regimes or else face the prospect of massive cost increases and/or possible license violations. Of course, vendors who take the time to fully understand their customers’ needs before establishing licensing policies will likely come out on top in the virtual marketplace.

Another area that is apparently lagging is data protection. According to a recent survey of 500 IT directors by data recovery specialist Veeam Software, full recovery of a backed-up virtual machine takes about five hours, even though actual VM deployments have been reduced to minutes. Nearly half of all recoveries are intended to restore a single file or application item, while nearly two-thirds of organizations encounter problems while attempting a recovery. Still, only about 2 percent of all server and VM backups are tested for recovery.

Clearly, then, enterprises have some issues to work out in the drive toward a fully dynamic virtual/cloud environment. But the good news is that the infrastructure being put in place today provides a robust foundation for the needs of tomorrow.

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