Written by David Blackman, GM for Northern Europe and MEA, Acronis
According to a recent global study of 6,000 IT managers in 18 countries, this is the year mainstream businesses adoption of virtualisation will outpace that of the large enterprise for the first time. The research, conducted by Acronis and research house Ponemon, found mainstream growth rate of 21 percent, 50 percent more than the rate identified in a recent Gartner large enterprise report.
What is driving this rapid adoption of virtualisation technologies? Virtualisation has been talked about within the manufacturing industry for a number of years but it has nearly always been associated with large enterprises, as they are widely believed to have the most to gain from the technology. Another common view, especially amongst more, mainstream manufacturing businesses is that virtualisation is difficult to implement and maintain because it needs specialist skills and expensive tools, making it a costly proposition to embark on. The truth, however, is virtualisation can work for any company because most of them are facing the same IT challenges as larger enterprises.
With reputations for quality management, optimisation and automation combined with shrinking IT staff and budgets and a ‘do-more-with-less’ focus, it is becoming increasingly harder for manufacturing companiesto simultaneously maintain day-to-day business IT operations and invest in new strategic projects that can yield longer-term efficiencies to help the business grow.
Virtualisation is one way to meet this challenge. Our research found the top three drivers for adopting virtualisation are potential cost-savings, scalability and business agility. With it becoming more affordable and more accessible to small businesses, innovative and flexible businesses can adopt these technologies quickly, putting them in a prime position to make the most of virtualisation.
Cost savings are consistently identified as the primary advantage of virtualising servers. The majority of IT managers understand that each virtual machine only uses a portion of the physical machine’s processing, memory and I/O resources, creating a decrease in physical hardware and system cooling which results in significant cost savings.
But there’s more to virtualisation than cost savings. Our research shows increased efficiency and flexibility are the main drivers for implementing virtualisation. Mainstream companies are beginning to recognise that virtualisation allows them to be more flexible and nimble in response to market changes, whether internally from mergers and acquisitions or externally through legislation or economic slowdowns.
In today’s challenging environment businesses are turning to technology to give them the competitive edge they need to succeed. In light of this, 2012 looks set to be another busy year for virtualisation with businesses seeking to squeeze the most out of their existing server and storage infrastructure. This is borne out by the finding that a healthy one in four of industrial sector organisations questioned have virtualised 50 percent or more of their production servers and this figure is set to grow by 30 percent in the next 12 months.
The planned adoption rate for virtualisation is a welcome sign, but the survey also found the majority of companies are falling short when it comes to protecting the data accumulating on their virtual machines. Over a third (40 percent) of manufacturing organisations admitted that they back up virtual servers at monthly or irregular intervals.
This practice is putting virtual data at risk and leaving it exposed to potential data loss, an especially worrying situation considering the monetary value of data hosted on virtual severs is almost equal to that on physical servers. There could be a number of reasons why the manufacturing sector is struggling to get their backup and recovery strategy for virtualised servers’ right, such as the workload of managing separate backups and confusion over who is responsible for virtual machines.
Nevertheless, its important organisations understand virtual environments are subject to the same variety of risks as traditional servers, i.e. hard drive corruption or failure, software failure and even human error. While many elements of the IT environment are relatively unchanged by virtualisation, backup and recovery of virtual machines is still a major pain point for many.
If mainstream businesses decide to move to a virtual environment, it’s critical they understand the same principles apply as to a physical one and they should protect their data correctly with regular backups and a tried and tested disaster recovery/business continuity strategy. To achieve this, they must look for solutions that offer simplicity, ease-of-use, and minimal training when evaluating the purchase of a disaster recovery solution for their virtual machines.
Organisations in the manufacturing sector have an opportunity to manage some of their IT challenges through virtualisation to help maintain their competitiveness, but some are playing Russian roulette with their virtual backups. If their luck runs out, they will face very real and potentially very messy consequences. For IT managers to maintain the efficiency and cost savings initially created by virtualisation, the costly risk of data loss must be avoided.
The Acronis and Ponemon research found that like-for-like confidence in Disaster Recovery (DR) has risen 14 percent in the past 12 months. Manufacturing organisations can keep these levels on the rise by ensuring their virtual environments are fully protected. If they do this, they can make 2012 the year for small to mid-size organisations to innovate, improve their technology and boost their back-ups.