Canadian research firm debunks vendors’ virtualization claims

Most Canadian enterprises are achieving about half the consolidation ratios per processor that vendors claim virtualization will bring, according to a report published by Info-Tech Research on Wednesday.

Based on an investigation that involved visits or in-depth phone interviews with more than 30 companies two months ago, Info-Tech concluded that vendors are exaggerating the number of servers that can actually be consolidated through virtualization, inflating the technology’s potential. Virtualization software allows companies to run more than a single “instance” on a server, potentially increasing utilization and allowing companies to rationalize their IT infrastructure.

While some firms, for example, have quoted consolidation ratios of 12 or more virtual machines per processor, most firms are doing about six, said Matt Brudzynski, senior analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech.

“We tended to talk to VMware customers simply because most of the customers were using it. However, the same claims have been made by Sun, IBM and others,” Brudzynski said. 

VMWare, Sun and IBM did not respond to requests for interviews at press time.

At a recent media briefing on virtualization, Dell Canada systems consultant John Schouten did not make any promises about consolidation ratios but emphasized the efficiencies it could bring.

“Things like management, patching, development and testing is typically encumbered by the need for replicated hardware,” he said. “Virtualization allows you lower maintenance costs and can give you a more available environment.”

Before they get there, though, Brudzynski recommended IT managers spend more time on capacity planning. According to Info-Tech’s research, this was the one area where companies tended to bring in an outside consultant. Info-Tech also noticed that companies that purchased new hardware tended to fare better than those that reused old machines for their host servers.

“With the older processors, they weren’t getting the consolidation ratios because they were maxing out the CPUs,” he said, adding that blade technology did not play as strong a role as some vendors have suggested. “A lot of them viewed blades as something outside of virtualization – if you were trying to consolidate your infrastructure, you could do one or the other. Over time, they realized you can do both.”

Besides VMWare, Brudzynski said some customers were also using Xen, an open source virtualization tool that has been promoted by Novell, among others. In many cases, however, Xen was used as a test bed, he said. “Companies would pick up Xen, try it out, see if it worked and then run it in a development environment. When it came to moving onto the production side, though, they would often go with VMware.”

Companies may be able to boost their consolidation ratios as more servers come backed with multi-core processors, Brudzynski added.


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