By now, you've most likely implemented some level of x86 server virtualization. So, the question of the moment is this: Does data-center virtualization on x86 boxes represent the end of your virtualization efforts or just the beginning?
What about storage virtualization? What about desktop virtualization? What about application virtualization? What about virtualizing all your data-center hardware including Unix boxes and mainframes?
Those are the key, long-term virtualization questions facing IT executives. Once you've started down the road to decoupling the underlying technology infrastructure from the services you're providing to the business, doesn't it make sense to extend that strategy across the enterprise?
If you're inclined to agree, the next logical step would be storage virtualization, because you're dealing with another technology residing in the data center. The advantages of creating a virtual storage pool include lower-cost data migration, easier storage-resource management, common replication services and the ability to maximize and extend your storage resources.
Client virtualization, which comes in a variety of options, also offers real benefits. In the hosted virtual-desktop setup, applications are hosted on a server and users work on thin-client machines. This would be ideal, for example, in a call center.
In another version of desktop virtualization, one physical machine is virtualized. Here, separate business and personal zones could be created on mobile workers' laptops for security and compliance.
Or multiple operating systems could be run on a single PC. This scenario would apply to engineers, for example, who might be running a specific Unix or Linux-based technical application but using Windows for e-mail and other basic applications.
Most companies today are in the first stage of virtualization, says Gartner analyst George Weiss. This means they're consolidating and virtualizing servers as cost-cutting measures, typically with a single vendor.
The next phase would be using virtualization technology for the dynamic allocation of resources across servers. And the final phase, which won't occur for several more years, is heterogeneous virtualization, the ability to move workloads dynamically across hardware platforms.