Can virtualization save government $30B by 2015?

Government agencies are saving a significant amount of money and increasing efficiency through server virtualization, but could be missing an opportunity on the desktop, according to a survey of 302 federal, state and local government IT decision-makers by MeriTalk, underwritten by Microsoft and NetApp.

Eighty-two percent of federal and 77 percent of state-and-local IT professionals surveyed say their agencies have implemented server virtualization, leading to an estimated savings of 19 percent of their IT budgets -- $15 billion across government, according to the report, “Virtualization Vacuum: The 2012 Government Virtualization Study.”

On average, IT professionals expect virtualized workloads to almost double in the next four years – from 37 percent to 63 percent. Federal managers expect their virtualization savings to grow from 19 percent to 30 percent – or $23.6 billion – by 2015, the report states.


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Desktop virtualization provides an untapped opportunity for additional savings, but just 7 percent of the agencies surveyed plan to virtualize all applications for all users at the desktop level.

According to the report, 57 percent of federal and 64 percent of state-and-local respondents say server virtualization takes priority over desktop virtualization. However, if desktop virtualization provides just half of the savings of server virtualization, agencies could save 9.5 percent of their IT budget, or $7.5 billion, executives underwriting the report say.

Agency managers should look beyond servers as they develop virtualization plans, said Mark Weber, president of U.S. public sector for NetApp, a provider of storage solutions.

“The more opportunities that agencies are able to recognize and incorporate into their modernization frameworks, the greater their long-term benefits,” Weber said.

Server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers. The resources of the server itself are hidden from users, and software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers.

Desktop virtualization separates a computer desktop environment from the physical computer. Desktop virtualization is considered a type of client-server computing model because the "virtualized" desktop is stored on a centralized, or remote, server and not the physical machine being virtualized.

Despite the proven results and clear savings opportunity, only 48 percent of federal and 39 percent of state-and-local respondents think they have the funding needed to meet their server virtualization goals, and that’s not the only barrier.

IT professionals reported that the main challenge faced for both server and desktop virtualization is legacy applications.

“Some servers/apps can’t be virtualized due to performance or because they are legacy-type applications that will not run on newer architectures and agencies do not have funds to re-engineer them,” the report states.

Security is also a hold-up, but more so for federal agencies than for state/local – 41 percent of federal managers cited security concerns, as opposed to 24 percent of state-and-local respondents. Only 63 percent of respondents say their management fully supports server virtualization adoption. Fewer than half report that their agency has a formal policy or common framework for server virtualization.

The majority of IT professionals recognize that it might take a while to realize savings from the implementation of server virtualization. Fifty-seven percent said they expect to wait at least one year to realize savings following the deployment of server virtualization.

Forty-seven percent said that server virtualization has significantly improved their agency’s return on investment. Additionally, IT managers said agencies are achieving many of their top server virtualization goals, including consolidating servers and improving efficiency.

“Virtualization and consolidation are critical components of an effective cloud strategy, resulting in tangible benefits,” said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal’s chief technology officer.

The combination of server consolidation, data center consolidation and private cloud infrastructures can yield significant cost savings, improved services and integrated management, Adams said, noting that this all starts with a smart approach to virtualization.

“Virtualization Vacuum: The 2012 Government Virtualization Study” is based on an online survey of 302 government agency CIOs, CTOs, IT directors/supervisors, IT managers and data center managers conducted in October 2011.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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