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Governments Missing Out On Virtualization Savings

Government agencies need to overcome funding uncertainties and other major barriers in order to realize savings from virtualizing their servers and desktops, according to a new study by MeriTalk. The report, "Virtualization Vacuum: The 2012 Government Virtualization Study," surveyed government IT decision makers. One of the key findings is that 82% of federal and 77% of state and local IT professionals say their agencies have already implemented some server virtualization at an estimated savings

Government agencies need to overcome funding uncertainties and other major barriers in order to realize savings from virtualizing their servers and desktops, according to a new study by MeriTalk. The report, "Virtualization Vacuum: The 2012 Government Virtualization Study," surveyed government IT decision makers. One of the key findings is that 82% of federal and 77% of state and local IT professionals say their agencies have already implemented some server virtualization at an estimated savings of 19% of their IT budgets, which translates to $15 billion across government.

The report also found that virtualized workloads are expected to nearly double by 2015, from 37% to 63%, leading to an estimated government-wide savings of $23.6 billion. Among federal agencies, 57% believe server virtualization takes priority over desktop virtualization, compared with 64% of state and local respondents. Although some form of desktop virtualization will be implemented by government agencies, less than one in 10 plans to virtualize all applications for all users, according to the report, which was underwritten by Microsoft and NetApp.

The reason for the low number is that "agencies are still getting their arms around server virtualization and private cloud, and desktop and application virtualization are yet another paradigm shift,'' noted Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal's CTO, in an email. Respondents say the top challenges associated with desktop and application virtualization include incompatible business applications, security concerns, lack of end-user training, increased complexity and uncertain ROI.

The transition of VDI from largely try to must-buy status has been slower than predicted, but prospects are improving. Technologies that enable desktop virtualization, of which VDI is only one, are finally maturing to the point where enterprises can realize ROI, says Karin Kelley, analyst, infrastructure management, at 451 Research.

Survey respondents appear to be willing to wait for the savings to be had from virtualization projects. Some 57% say they expect to wait a year or more to realize savings once a server virtualization implementation is completed and operational.

"In an era of cost-consciousness, virtualization is literally doing more with less,'' said Adams. "Not only have agencies already realized savings, they also estimate saving an additional $30 billion. Those savings mean the possibility of fewer cuts for citizen services. That is simply better government."

Adams added that virtualization is the "next step down the road to larger savings initiatives." If agencies combine server consolidation, data center consolidation and private cloud infrastructures, she maintained, they can realize even more scalability, cost saving, improved services and integrated management.

Tying a well-conceived virtualization strategy to data center consolidation can lead to many benefits, according to the federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), in an August, 2011 report, Federal Data Centers: Server Virtualization, by InformationWeek Analytics. The FDCCI, part of the office of Management and Budget, requires agencies to take an inventory of data center assets, develop consolidation plans and integrate those plans into their fiscal year 2012 budget submissions.

The key benefits of server virtualization identified by the FDCCI are reduced energy consumption, lower facilities and server maintenance/operations costs, and improved automation of server management and provisioning. Other benefits include lower data center complexity, rapid provisioning and support for continuity of operations, the InformationWeek Government report states.

Virtualization "dramatically" reduces the time to provision servers, down from day or weeks with physical servers to minutes or hours with virtual servers, according to the report. Virtual servers can be moved faster and easier than physical servers, expediting the process of consolidating dispersed computing environments into a central location. Space savings is listed as another big benefit.

The MeriTalk report was based on an online survey of 302 government agency CIOs, CTOs, IT directors/supervisors, IT managers, and data center managers conducted in October 2011.

Learn more about Strategy: Delegation Delivers Virtualization Savings by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports (free, registration required).

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