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New Enterprise Cloud Survey Uncovers Gaps Between Expectations, Reality

July 11, 2011

Summary

A new study explores how organizations plan to move business-critical applications into virtual and cloud environments.
A new study that explores how organizations plan to move business-critical applications into virtual and cloud environments has uncovered some fundamental disparities between expectations and reality.
Symantec’s 2011 Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud Survey, which gathered the views of more than 3,700 IT and C-level professionals in 35 countries, also found that these two groups are at odds over cloud deployment.
Continue reading to learn how the evolution from virtualization to the cloud is playing out at enterprises around the globe.

Gaps indicate organizations ‘are still learning’

The survey focused on five areas of virtualization and cloud computing: server, storage, and endpoint virtualization; private Storage-as-a-Service; and hybrid/private cloud computing. Respondents were asked about their awareness, adoption, goals, challenges, and attitudes for each of these technologies.
Specifically, respondents were asked about their goals when they implemented the technologies. Those who had implemented the technologies were then asked which goals they actually achieved. The difference between the answers revealed what the survey calls an “expectation gap.”
In the area of server virtualization, the gap was quite small (4%), which shows “how effectively organizations are anticipating the results of virtualizing servers.”
In other areas the gap was much larger. For example, the gap in storage virtualization was 33%, with disappointments coming in IT agility, scalability, performance, and expense.
Private Storage-as-a-Service projects fared worst of all. The survey found that while 77% of organizations are considering Storage-as-a-Service, these challenging projects are difficult to implement and fell short of expectations by 37%.
The survey found that these gaps are a hallmark of early-stage markets and “indicate that organizations are still learning what these technologies are capable of and how to overcome the new challenges they bring with them.”
In terms of implementation, server and storage virtualization are the most mature, with 45% and 43% of enterprises implementing. Private Storage-as-a-Service is the least mature, with 36% adopting.

An increased focus on business-critical applications

The survey found that organizations investing in virtualization and hybrid/private cloud technologies tend to follow a similar path. In general, they start by virtualizing test and development environments to gain experience before moving on to more important applications.
According to the survey, business-critical applications are now starting to come into the spotlight. More than half of the enterprises surveyed (59%) plan to virtualize database applications in the next year; 55% plan to virtualize Web applications; 47% plan to virtualize email and calendar applications; and 41% plan to virtualize ERP applications.
However, enterprises are more hesitant when it comes to implementing hybrid/private cloud technologies for their business-critical applications. The survey found that an average of just 33% of business-critical applications such as ERP, accounting, and CRM are in hybrid/private cloud environments. Why the lack of adoption? The most common concerns cited were related to disaster recovery, security, and control over data. Other concerns cited were performance and compliance issues.

Quality of service challenges emerge as top priorities

The survey found that while virtualization/cloud computing can help streamline operations and save money, sacrificing performance is not an option. Yet it appears that performance can be a factor that either drives virtualization or inhibits it. For example, among organizations that have implemented storage virtualization, 84% said improving performance was one of their goals. At the same time, two-thirds of enterprises listed performance degradation as an important factor in their hesitation to place business-critical applications into a private cloud.
Security is another important quality issue, with 76% of enterprises that have implanted server virtualization indicating security is an important factor in their hesitation to place business-critical applications on their virtualized servers. However, enterprises considering Storage-as-a-Service listed improved security as their top goal.
Yet it was reliability (including uptime and disaster recovery) that emerged as the top concern among those enterprises that have embraced server virtualization. At the same time, more than one-half of respondents considering server virtualization said improved availability was a goal.
So there is a conflict: Organizations expect the quality of their service to improve as they implement virtualization and cloud computing, yet there is fear that these technologies will actually interfere with the performance, security, and reliability of their IT services.

IT and business executives are out of sync

Why, then, do some enterprises expect improved quality of service from virtualization and cloud computing, while others consider the adoption of these technologies to be a liability? The survey proposes one possibility: There is a disconnect between IT and executives.
According to the survey, 44% of CEOs and 46% of CFOs are cautious about placing business-critical applications on virtualized servers. Their main concerns: reliability, security, and performance. And yet more than 75% of organizations are at least discussing deployment.
In practice, it would appear that many C-level concerns are unfounded, based on responses from IT. For example, concerns about performance are cited as a top reason for caution, yet 78% to 85% of those who deployed server virtualization achieved their performance goals.

Conclusion

While it is apparent that virtualization and cloud computing are quickly becoming indispensable for IT, the results of this new survey suggest that better communication between IT staff and executives involved in the decision-making process is needed. Only then will the potential risks and benefits of virtualization and cloud computing be clearly understood by everyone in the organization. And only then will the gaps between expectations and reality begin to narrow.

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