We have had epic discussions with quite a few readers about the importance of virtualization in our reviews. In our six-core Opteron review we wrote:

"Let there be no misunderstanding: how well a new Server CPU handles virtualization determines whether it is a wallflower or a blockbuster."

Even back in 2008, IDC expected that 52% of the servers would be used for virtualization, but in other reports the numbers were significantly lower. For example, more recently (April 2011) IDC reported that about 20% of all newly purchased servers are used in virtualized environments. No doubt there is some confusion between buying a server for virtualization and the numbers of workloads that find a home in a VM. IDC reports (Dec 2010) that more than 70% of applications are running inside a VM, but there is more.

The 20% virtualized servers number seems low, but you have to drill down a bit in the data. First of all, when we focus on the "mature" markets (US, Europe, Japan, Parts of Asia) the percentage of virtualized servers rises to 30%. And if you then take into account that a few players, such as Google (installed base of 1 million servers), facebook (100k+ servers) and Intel (100k+ servers) are buying massive amounts of non-virtualized servers, you can understand the percentage of virtualized servers is a lot higher among the rest of the server market. In other words, if you do a survey among the server buyers (instead of looking at the server volumes), the percentage of people buying a server for virtualization is much higher. In fact, when we talked to several analysts they indicated that if you ignore the Googles and Facebooks of the earth, the virtualization rate of servers might be as high as 70%.

Not convinced yet? Well, luckily for us Canonical did a survey among 6000 (!) users of Ubuntu Server. Interestingly, 50% of the respondents stated that they use Ubuntu server as a guest OS inside a VM, in other words it runs virtualized. Although this is only a (small) part of the total server market, it is another datapoint that gives us an idea what these Opteron and Xeon boxes are used for.

Interestingly, VMware and not Xen or KVM are the most used hypervisors. To summarize, the percentage of servers bought for virtualization reported by IDC and others are heavily influenced by Google and other "Cloud" buyers. We suspect that a much higher percentage (than the quoted 30%) of the server buyers among our readers consider the virtualized benchmarks as the most important ones.

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  • TheNuts - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Not sure why you would not use VMware in your Enterprise. I am a VI Admin and have 200+ VMware VMs in my Enterprise. The VMs consist of running Tier1 (Exchange, SQL, SAP, etc) to Tier3 (File, Print, DCs, etc) apps running a mix of Windows and Linux OS's. Very, very few issues. No reason to be afraid of running just about anything on a VM in an enterprise environment.
  • L-Set - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I've been working in presales for reseller for over 18 months and quoting servers/storage/networking is pretty much my daily bread and butter. When I started my job I would have said about 30% (maybe 40%) of servers we quoted/specced were for virtualisation projects. Now I would easily say that figure is closer to 70%.
  • dgingeri - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I don't see Hyper-V listed anywhere. I have 3 Hyper-V hosts here at work running a total of 10 VMs for test lab infrastructure, with plans for two more. (The hosts are small, only a single processor and 16GB of memory, and that was intentional.) Why wouldn't it be listed?
  • dgingeri - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Duh, I didn't read far enough into the article before posting. Of course Hyper-V isn't listed: Ubuntu 10 and up won't work as a VM in Hyper-V. Neither does RedHat 6 or CentOS 6. I know, I've tried. RedHat and CentOS 5 work OK, but they have some minor issues. (I actually have 2 DNS/DHCP servers running CentOS5 as Hyper-V virtual machines, so it can be done.) So, yeah, no Hyper-V numbers.

    Hyper-V is really only designed around making more Windows virtual machines, and doesn't support Linux very well.
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Hyper-V officially supports CentOS 6 (both 6.0 and 6.1), so if you can't get it running, you're probably doing something wrong:

  • dgingeri - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I know. I've seen their documentation on it. Maybe it's the server (Dell R310) or the processor (Xeon X3470) that I'm using, but when I install it, it sees all optical disks or isos I mount as blank DVDs and the network won't work. (Yes, I'm using the "legacy network adapter".) That makes it kind of hard to work with.
  • esSJae - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Still didn't read far enough. The survey asked: "“If you use your Ubuntu servers as a host for virtualisation, which product(s)/ technology(ies) do you use?”

    Hyper-V doesn't run on Linux, neither does ESXi. The virtualization technologies used are running on top of Ubuntu Server.
  • alpha754293 - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Like any tool, there is a time and place for them.

    I virtualize so that if Windows, being the virus/scam/malware magnet that it is, gets hit, I can always just restore to a checkpoint rather than spending days trying to hunt it down leading to a reformat and reinstall.

    Personally, I like VirtualBox. It's relatively quick, but most importantly, it's easy to use.

    I haven't tried any of the new VMWares, or any of the other Hypervisors, but since VirtualBox works for me, I really don't see much of a need to.

    It'd be interesting to see if virtualization can be profiled to see which parts of the system it taxes.
  • LoupeGarou - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I work for a large hospital and we use Vmware. We Use vms for test systems and backup systems for our production stuff. For the most part other than that we us it to replace any low end system that would just sit there and waste space and power. We have replaced almost ALL of our little Desktop/server boxes with vms. The only ones we don' replace are the ones with special pci modems or other items that would be cumbersome in a vm.
    Now VMware has changed their licensing for Vsphere 5 and that is going to cause us to look at Microsoft and Citrix virtualization options.
    For our New citrix/EMR enviroment our EMR folks told us they use vmware to host their servers. But with only 2 vms running per host that cost gets pretty bad (current Vsphere 4.0) compared to just building physical boxes. I think VM's have their place but for me its not Full scale production, its a balance between the two.
  • dgingeri - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    VMs are great for situations where you can only get massively overblown hardware, such as DNS and DHCP. I have a couple Dell R310 servers running 4 DNS servers each, 4 subnets/vlans with one set backing up the other set, and two infrastructure servers, one running infrastructure storage and one running WDS, and two remote desktop machines for the testers to interface with the IPMI on the test servers for builds. Even with that, the quad core processors in those R310s are barely getting used. <$2000, 4 cores on the processor, 16GB of memory, 2TB of hard drive space, and it's barely taxing the servers. Both hosts running Win2k8R2 and using Hyper-V, half the VMs use Win2k8R2 as well, the others run CentOS.

    There are other uses for VMs, but for me, this is the best. It fits Hyper-V's restrictions and weaknesses, as well. I wouldn't want to use VMWare, as it would cost three times as much. Others are available, but the Windows licensing costs would go up.

    With Win2k8R2 Enterprise, the license includes up to 5 virtual machines under one $1000 license. So, we set this whole thing up for just under $6000. Without Hyper-V, it would have been 12 servers and 6 Windows licenses, and a ton of overblown hardware that barely gets used.

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