Virtualization still strategic, growing but costs remain biggest challenge, Red Hat research shows

Hybrid cloud computing and Linux containers are hot, but virtualization adoption remains on the rise within the enterprise, according to recent Red Hat research. The online survey captured virtualization usage and trends from more than 900 enterprise IT administrators, systems architects and IT managers across geographic regions and industries. The research revealed that most survey respondents are using virtualization to drive server consolidation, increase provisioning time, and provide infrastructure for developers to build and deploy applications. Cost pressures clearly remain top of mind, with cost or cost reduction ranking as greatest challenge, an expected benefit and main reason to migrate.
Over the next two years, survey respondents indicated that they expect to increase both virtualized infrastructure and workloads by 18 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In terms of application mix, the most commonly virtualized workloads among respondents were web applications, including websites (73 percent), web application servers (70 percent) and databases (67 percent). Virtualization usage starts early in an application’s lifecycle as well, with 85 percent of respondents indicating that they develop on virtual machines, with another 61 percent saying they also deploy these applications on virtualized infrastructure.
Virtualization’s benefits are generally known throughout the IT world, from reduced overhead costs to a smaller datacenter footprint, but just how well do these characteristics hold up to today’s computing environments? Based on this research, it appears the traditional benefits of virtualization still ring true. According to survey respondents, the top three benefits of virtualization today are:

Faster server provisioning (55 percent)
Cost benefits (49 percent)
Server consolidation (47 percent)

Not surprisingly, IT leaders do not expect virtualization to spring surprises on their operations, instead serving as reliable and highly-available technology. When asked about the most important capabilities of virtualization, the top answers were reliability (79 percent), high availability (73 percent), and performance (70 percent); followed closely by security and scalability.
At the same time, virtualization still faces challenges. Nearly 40 percent of respondents called out budgets and costs as a key challenge, likely related to the high costs of migrating workloads to and maintaining virtualization environments. Though it might seem odd for cost to be both a benefit and a challenge, it’s all about context – in the long run, virtualization can save enterprises money. But getting there takes money, and this may be especially true with proprietary software, licenses and extensive consulting services required for some implementations.
These concerns around costs could be why IT managers may look to augment virtualization with other infrastructure or application development environments. When asked what technologies they would deploy instead of virtualization in two years, the big winners are private cloud (60 percent) and containers (41 percent). This reveals how these respondents may work to both optimize existing IT and build out new, cloud-native infrastructure or workloads.
Another big challenge appears to be management. While not ranked as top challenge, it still showed up high in the rankings for most important capability (ease of management 63 percent) and a top migration benefit (simplified management 62 percent). Currently, those multiple virtualization products are being managed separately, with 75 percent of respondents using separate management tools built into each virtualization product or separate third-party tools.
So what does all of this actually tell us about the state of virtualization? For starters, virtualization seems here to stay – with an 18 percent increase in both workloads and infrastructure over two years, it seems safe to say that the respondents are committed to a virtualization strategy. In addition, that growth is not only in server virtualization, as respondents also forecast an emphasis on network (49 percent) and storage (45 percent) virtualization over the coming four years.
Challenges remain, particularly in the overall costs of virtualization deployments, but the benefits of virtualization can be still readily accessible to enterprises looking to capitalize on the technology. And virtualization is not being used in a vacuum, but part of a broader strategy to provide developers and applications with appropriate infrastructure, across virtualization, containers, private cloud and public cloud.