CDW-G has released its 2010 Government Virtualization Report, an assessment of client, server and storage virtualization in Federal, state and local agencies.

The report, based on a May survey of 600 Federal, state and local IT managers, reveals that 77 percent of agencies are implementing at least one form of virtualization, and of those, 89 percent are benefiting from the technology.

Benefits of virtualization, a broad term used to describe the abstraction of computer resources, include reduced operating and capital costs, improved utilization of computing resources and greater IT staff productivity, respondents said.

Despite those benefits – and imperatives such as the Federal data center consolidation initiative – 81 percent of all agencies said they are not using virtualization to its fullest extent, and just 33 percent employ a “virtualization first” strategy, meaning that a requestor must prove that a new software application does not work in a virtualized environment before the agency will buy a dedicated server to support it.

According to the report, across government, agencies cited lack of staff and budget as top impediments to further virtualization adoption. Nearly half said their IT department is not appropriately staffed and trained to manage a virtual environment. Despite those challenges, most agencies said they will fully implement client, server and storage virtualization by 2015.

“The cost savings associated with virtualization are exceptionally compelling in the current budget environment,” said David Hutchins, director of state and local sales for CDW-G. “We see many state and local governments starting with a pilot project, and once tangible cost and time savings are achieved, redeploying those resources to other priority initiatives – including additional virtualization, which reaps still more savings.”

Most Agencies Implementing; Security Concerns Decline

CDW-G’s survey found that 91 percent of agencies are considering or implementing server virtualization, a method of running multiple independent server operating systems on a single physical server. Eighty-four percent are considering or implementing client virtualization, a method of running multiple desktops and/or applications centrally in the data center, and an equal number are considering or implementing storage virtualization, a method of making many different physical storage networks and devices appear as one entity for purposes of management and administration.

Security concerns about virtualization, the No. 2 barrier to Federal implementation, according to CDW-G’s 2009 Federal Virtualization Report, declined significantly within that group year over year. Today, Federal IT professionals rank security No. 7 among their top barriers, after concerns such as staff knowledge, budget and staff availability. State and local IT professionals in 2010 ranked security No. 8 among their top barriers, after concerns such as budget and staff availability. Across government, nearly half of IT managers report that security is actually a benefit of virtualization, CDW-G found.

“Security is a critical consideration with any change to agency IT environments, and rightly so,” said Andy Lausch, vice president of federal sales for CDW-G. “As agencies grow their virtualization expertise, many are finding that security is actually improved with virtualization. A centralized IT environment means managers have fewer machines to monitor and manage, which can improve the agency’s overall security posture.”

Virtualization Not One-Size Fits All; CIO Savvy Essential to Success

While most government IT professionals are implementing or considering virtualization, respondents caution that the technique is not a one-size-fits all solution. Forty-six percent said some applications should not run on virtualized servers, for example. One respondent noted, “Some applications require such intensive resources, the cost benefit is outweighed.”

Echoing CDW-G’s 2009 survey on Federal virtualization, respondents again said CIO virtualization proficiency is critical to successful implementation. Agencies whose IT staffs gave their CIOs an “A” for virtualization proficiency were three times more likely to experience a successful virtualization deployment than agencies with C-rated CIOs. Further, 87 percent of agencies that gave their CIO an “A” in virtualization proficiency said their IT department is appropriately staffed and trained to support a virtualized environment.

Government IT professionals offered the following advice to their peers:
• Lead: Secure non-IT leadership support and ensure adequate end-user education
• Analyze: Conduct cost-benefit and performance analyses and set benchmarks for evaluating ROI
• Plan: Audit current IT environments to determine areas that can immediately benefit from virtualization and areas that will require additional planning
• Implement: Begin with a small-scale implementation. Apply lessons learned to a subsequent deployment

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