In 2008, virtualization was phase one. In 2009, IT managers will need to get control of virtual machine sprawl before they take a serious look at tools that can be used to virtualize desktops and applications.
"Some companies have thousands of [virtual machines] out there, many that just lie there dormant once they're turned up," said Ty Schwab, CEO at virtualization systems integrator Blackhawk Technology Consulting in Eugene, Ore. "CIOs now want to see best practices and processes for virtual environments."
Virtualization now or later?
Many IT professionals at government agencies and school systems attending a recent TechTarget seminar in Washington, D.C., said they will struggle to stretch the life of desktops and servers.
Employees at the Hempfield School District in Landisville, Pa., are using nine-year-old PCs, so the IT team has little choice but to replace its 3,000 PCs and Macs, said John Ferenz, IT specialist. His team is looking at virtualizing servers and desktops, but the more immediate move might be to buy new, more powerful desktops running Vista as they consider alternatives.
"There might be a way to get more out of our desktops with virtualization, but right now we're spending a lot of time and money walking around fixing machines that are at the end of their lifecycle," Ferenz said.
At some government agencies, staff isn't just making do. They're radically reducing the number of desktops and servers they have in use. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has 15,000 desktops in five locations. The IT team must consolidate storage and resources as it closes some of its sites and reassesses IT operations, said Kevin Bland, an engineer with the Stafford, Va., agency.
"Virtualization takes storage stress off of the desktop, but then puts it in the data center," Bland said. "We need to be able to tell [the decision makers] the pros and cons of keeping things on the desktop versus putting them in the data center. That's what we're trying to figure out now."
Tech looks forward too
Although resource consolidation seems to be on everyone's 2009 agenda, there are some emerging technologies that IT professionals are watching closely.
Christopher Steffen, principle technical architect with Loveland, Colo.-based Kroll Factual Data expects to get Windows 7 into production by third-quarter 2009, around the time it becomes available. "We really looked at Vista, but the feeling is we'll probably bypass it and go to Windows 7," he said.
For servers, IT shops buying new hardware can look forward to using 64-bit technology, though 64-bit adoption on the desktop is still a toss up in 2009. Windows 7 may give 64-bit desktop adoption a boost, but it will be a minor boost in 2009, said Anil Desai, an independent analyst in Austin, Texas.