Server virtualization is becoming a mainstay of the government information technology enterprise.
A recent survey by the 1105 Government Information Group found that the majority of agencies have installed virtual server solutions or are in the process of doing so.
In fact, 44 percent of respondents said their agencies already had server virtualization in place, while another 31 percent said their agencies were deploying it and 22 percent said their agencies were investigating it. Only 3 percent said there was no interest at all.
The rate of adoption across government agencies continues to increase. Looking at the mean score across all agencies, virtualization accounted for 36 percent of all server activity two years ago. Today, the mean is 49 percent, and it is expected to reach 66 percent two years from now.
The survey found that four potential benefits of server virtualization play large roles in government buying decisions: stronger security, higher availability, more cost-effective use of space and/or energy, and better use of available resources.
At least 68 percent of respondents ranked each of those four as very important, while at least 26 percent ranked them “somewhat important. In contrast, “lower total cost of ownership” was rated as very important by only 61 percent of respondents, followed by “easier to upgrade” (58 percent) and “more flexible system design” (54 percent).
Some factors clearly are more important than others, but it’s usually the total package that makes server virtualization so appealing to agencies. For example, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is adopting server and desktop virtualization to improve the overall cost effectiveness of its IT infrastructure.
“This technology abstracts the need for expensive servers and redundant systems, and commoditizes the hardware layer of the network, resulting in more versatile, redundant and manageable services and environments,” a recent acquisition document states.
Still, agencies have concerns about the possible ramifications of server virtualization. Security tops the list. Although stronger security is seen as an important benefit of virtualization, no one is taking it for granted: Half of the respondents said their agencies were very concerned about security, and another 39 percent they were somewhat concerned.
Performance was second on the list of concerns, with 48 percent of respondents saying their agencies were very concerned and 35 percent somewhat concerned that server virtualization could result in a performance hit.
However, such concerns are quickly abating, according to a recent report by the Aberdeen Group, an IT market research and consulting firm. New servers are significantly more powerful, with more computing cores, more memory and a large number of I/O slots.
“These servers have been designed to support virtualized environments as hardware vendors have worked directly with virtualization software providers to optimize computing for hypervisor-based software,” according to the firm’s August report titled “Server Virtualization in Large Enterprises: Most Benefits are Still to Be Gained.”