Virtualisation is moving into the mainstream with 50% of IT professionals already using this new technology, or planning to do so within the next 18 months, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by email research specialists, emedia also indicates that over half (52%) of respondents are saying virtualisation systems introduce some new security challenges. The main ones amongst those mentioned include consideration for patching and update (32%), guest-to-guest attacks (27%) and the addition of new host software (22%).

Interestingly, the later the implementation of the technology is scheduled for, the more apprehensive IT professionals seems to be. emedia's survey shows that 51% of current users think that virtualisation poses some new risks, rising to 57% amongst those planning to use the new solution within the next six months and 66% amongst those adopting it within the next six to 18 months.

But system vulnerability does not seem to be the main hurdle for non-adopters at that stage. Obstacles to virtualisation expansion for non-users include the lack of a compelling business case for total cost of ownership and return on investment (20%), priority given to other network upgrade projects (19%), cost/budget constraints (18%), insufficient staff expertise (15%) and security (9%).

IT professionals believe they can overcome these threats by taking various safety measures such as staff training and improving understanding (51%), patching, updating and ‘hardening’ servers (38%), using firewalls (30%) and separating networks, subnetting and routing (25%).

When purchasing a virtualisation solution, the most important criteria respondents look for are server or physical space consolidation (64%), disaster recovery (54%), reduced cost of ownership (49%), speed performance (48%) and ease of use (43%).

David Clark, emedia managing director said: "The advantages of virtualisation appear to be tantalising but it seems that IT managers approach it with caution."

The emedia 'RapidResearch Quarterly IT Survey' focused on adoption of virtualisation and canvassed responses from 278 senior IT directors, managers and system engineers from small, medium and large-sized organisations from most of the major industry sectors in the UK in May 2007.