How far has virtual systems management come?

Survey data collected over three years shows that IT managers embrace virtualization, but still face management hurdles.

Network Instruments survey of Interop 2010 attendees over three years shows how IT managers continue to embrace virtualization, yet management challenges persist.

Virtualization technology continues to spread across servers and desktops in many organizations, yet for more than one-third of IT managers polled at Interop 2010 in Las Vegas, the lack of monitoring tools represented the “greatest problem plaguing virtual deployments.”

Interop attendees embrace cloud benefits, expect management challenges

On the second day of this year’s Interop conference, Network Instruments polled 105 network engineers, managers and directors about their experiences with virtualization. After learning that many IT managers expected challenges along with the benefits of cloud computing, the network management vendor asked attendees about attendees’ virtualization deployments.

Sixty-one percent of attendees have deployed virtualization technology, and of those, 55% have virtualized “mission-critical” servers and 28% have rolled out desktop virtualization technology. More than 80% of IT managers polled said that cost savings was the primary reason they decided to adopt virtualization. About 30% of those surveyed indicated they wanted to be able to deploy servers faster. And 41% revealed they brought virtualization in-house to simplify management.

Still 36% said they lacked the appropriate tools to monitor their virtual servers and desks, citing this as the greatest problem with virtualization. About 20% of IT managers at Interop said that managing virtual environments consumed too much time, and 30% said they had no significant problems with virtualization.

“The most surprising survey results to me were the number of people lacking appropriate management tools and the ability to monitor virtual communications,” said Stephen Brown, product manager for Network Instruments, in a statement. “While we’re speaking with more people this year who are aware of these issues, fewer are adequately dealing with the challenge. On the positive side, it appears managers are not having many problems as they become experienced with the technology.”

Managing virtualization has challenged IT managers for the past few years. Network Instruments polled 120 network managers, engineers and IT executives at Interop 2009 in Las Vegas and found 55% reported they virtualized mission-critical servers, including e-mail and Web servers. Another 50% said they ran DNS and DHCP servers on virtual machines. And nearly 40% had already extended virtualization to their desktop environments.

Yet 55% told the network analysis vendor they experienced more problems than benefits with the technology, while the remaining 45% said they had realized the benefits of virtualization. Among the problems were a lack of visibility and tools to troubleshoot performance problems in virtual environments for 27% of respondents. More than one-fourth of those polled at Interop 2009 cited a lack of training on virtual infrastructure and 21% expressed concern over an inability to secure the infrastructure. For nearly 60%, the primary problem with virtualization was a lack of experience to appropriately manage the technology and nearly 50% said that technology implementation costs were too high, according to Network Instruments.

And at Interop 2008 in Las Vegas, more than 50% of 117 attendees surveyed reported that their organizations have deployed some virtualization technologies. Yet nearly 40% of 117 network managers polled at Interop also listed virtualization as the emerging technology that represents the "greatest monitoring challenges," according to a joint survey conducted by Network Instruments and NetQoS.

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