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The effects of virtual stall are more pronounced on the desktop side, where the economics are different and the ROI isn't as quickly realized. Ken Phelan, CTO of Gotham Technology Partners, a solution provider based in Montvale, N.J., has been seeing frustrated customers pulling back from virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments.
"There is definitely stall in the VDI space. Companies will deploy it and realize that it's more expensive than they expected, in terms of both the physical costs and the support costs," Phelan said.
The persistent virtual desktop model, in which each user is assigned a dedicated virtual machine, is especially problematic. Vendors have been pushing the persistent model as a way to simply VDI deployments, but in larger organizations, support and maintenance costs can cancel out the economic benefits, according to Phelan.
"There are challenges around the persistent model and that has stalled lot of larger installations. It's easy for 300 VDI desktops but not for 3,000, and organizations get stuck on that," Phelan said.
The VDI market has also been held back by a lack of operational maturity and ISVs' focus on developing for physical PC environments, Phelan said.
"There have been antivirus products that killed the economics of virtualization because they had to be installed on every machine," Phelan said. "The truth is, you have legacy stuff that's been engineered and architected for standalone, individual PCs, and it doesn't operate as well as it should in a virtual environment."
On the server side, a similar myopia exists in some firms when it comes to managing virtual infrastructure, said Kaplan. "The biggest single problem is that IT staff is looking at virtual environments from a physical perspective and applying physical toolsets and processes to virtual infrastructure," he said. "Most organizations I'm running into aren't backing up data at the virtual machine level, but at the application level."
Another contributing factor to virtualization stall is that companies are afraid to virtualize tier one business apps. Virtualization vendors insist the technology is capable of handling the rigorous use these apps require, but organizational decision makers tend to see things from a "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" perspective -- particularly when the wrong decision can have employment-related consequences.
"There's lots of fear out there about breaking what isn't broke, like converting a tier one application," said Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider. "Some folks are reluctant to do that until they refresh hardware. It's as much a psychological barrier as anything else."
Virtualization is a key building block for cloud computing, so the virtualization stall phenomenon would seem to have ominous potential for the growth of that industry. But virtualization solution providers see it as a mere bump in the road that can easily be fixed with the right amount of planning. In fact, some are of the opinion that companies that ponder the situation before diving into virtualization will have better results with the technology.
"Virtualization stall is prevalent, but it’s not an immovable force and it can be mitigated with the proper planning and strategic approach," said Kaplan. "It's certainly a temporary thing -- organizations will eventually virtualize everything because the economics will compel them to do so."