The number of enterprise IT shops deploying x86 server virtualisation will double to 66% by 2009 but mainstream suppliers need to offer better management tools to early adopters.

IT departments already using virtualisation have virtualised 24% of servers, and that number is expected to grow to 45% by 2009.

Vendors need to get busy upgrading virtualisation products, because many enterprises have been using the technology for two years or more and are ready to expand usage, said analyst Forrester in a report.

"BMC Software, IBM Tivoli, HP Software, and Microsoft must repackage their offerings to create immediate tactical value by adding or buying tools for virtualisation environment tasks, such as converting between physical and virtual servers and rapidly updating virtual server configurations," Forrester states.

The Forrester report - x86 virtualisation adopters hit the tipping point is based on a survey of 275 enterprise server decision-makers.

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Previous Forrester research actually showed higher adoption of server virtualisation, with 50% of IT shops using the technology in production and pilots in 2006.

Estimates tend to be "all over the map," and IT executives are sometimes too optimistic about predictions of future use, says report lead author Frank Gillett. But the survey results "show the power and popularity of the idea ... and demonstrates there is significant intent to increase usage."

The latest report finds that 37% of IT departments have virtualised servers already, and another 13% plan to do so by July 2008. An additional 15% think they will virtualize x86 servers by 2009.

As enterprises gain a couple years experience with virtualisation, they will move from tactical, experimental approaches to strategic IT infrastructure initiatives that might involve upgrading servers, storage, networks and systems management.

But virtualisation isn't close to being universally adopted throughout enterprises, Gillett says. IT executives typically aren't using the technology for critical applications, or platforms like grid computing and supercomputing, he says.
"Virtualisation is working its way [up] from things where people are less uptight about performance," he says.

Virtualisation is primarily about sharing machines and portability, but these may not be compelling reasons to virtualise critical workloads, according to Gillett. Machine sharing isn't that necessary if a machine is already busy, and portability might not be compelling when there are few other servers a workload can be moved to.