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Attach Rate Shrink

And that is why the current attach rate of virtualization products on x64 machinery is estimated by Gartner to be at somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent. That figure was cited to me by Simon Crosby, the chief technology officer for the XenServer products at Citrix Systems, as part of the Essentials bundles Citrix announced last week. (I dropped that bit of data into a story about virtualization uptake on IBM's Power Systems iron to give a sense of contrast). Cosby said that Gartner expected virtualization to have a 50 per cent attach rate on x64 iron by 2010. But these attach rate numbers for virtualization sound high to me.

Forrester didn't count boxes to get a sense of virtualization uptake, but it did ask companies what percentage of their operating systems had been virtualized. The enterprise-class companies polled by Forrester reported that, on average, they had virtualized 31 per cent of their operating instances, adding that in the next two years the average would rise to 54 per cent. (It was not clear from the statement put out by Forrester if this was across all server architectures).

Amazingly, the penetration of OS instances that had been virtualized among SMB shops was higher, according to the Forrester survey data, with SMBs reporting that, on average, 36 per cent of their OSes have been virtualized and said that 61 per cent would be virtualized in two years. Again, these numbers all sound high to me, particularly for the SMBs.

Virtualization is also getting some thought on the desktop, according to Forrester, with 74 per cent of SMBs and 70 per cent of enterprises saying that they want to chop their PC acquisition and support costs by adopting some form of client virtualization. Thus far, server-based virtual PCs have not exactly taken the world by storm, and that is because no one wants to support servers either.

For all the talk about cloud computing - by which Forrester means pay-per-use renting of virtual servers - it is still in its early adopter phase. Some 5 per cent of enterprises reported in the survey back in the third quarter that they have implemented such VMs and another 3 per cent said they would do so within a year. Only 2 per cent of SMBs had deployed cloud-style VMs, and only another 2 per cent thought they would within the next 12 months.

"These survey results demonstrate that firms large and small are in the midst of rethinking and overhauling IT infrastructure and client systems, with new approaches for greater flexibility, efficiency, and performance," said Gillett.

The question now is this: Has the economic downturn accelerated server virtualization? Or hampered it? To do virtualization properly on x64 iron really requires the latest x64 processors, and that means spending money on new hardware when your boss, the bean counter, really doesn't want you to do that. It is much harder to justify the expense of new servers and virtualization management stacks in this economy, and projects that maintain or boost revenues or cut costs drastically are the ones that are going to get funding.

Companies that are willing to sacrifice some performance or not use a full-blown virtual machine hypervisor (like ESX Server or XenServer) but settle for a virtual private server setup instead (think Virtuozzo or Solaris containers), can virtualize on older iron. It will be interesting to see what companies do.

All the talk about power and cooling efficiency had not gone away as the economic meltdown was starting to ramp up. Forrester said that 81 per cent of enterprises had "some interest" in increasing the efficiency of their electricity usage in their data centers, but only 18 per cent said they were "very interested." SMB shops could basically care less. They have much bigger problems, like trying to stay in business at all. ®

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