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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  • mitcoes - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Qemu with KVM or XEN being OSS should have more share.

    I would like to read benchmarks for MS WOS and GNU/Linux OSs native vs virtualized, with different programs. Specially Xen with VGA passthrought, where MS WOS performs very good for games and better with no resident antivirus vs bative with resident antivirus for SOHO directx gamers.

    Of course not only benchmarks for gamers, it is not the issue here, multi virtualization with several virtual servers at one machine is what is on demand, and I would like to see benchmarking for software and hardware.

    Perhaps here AMD performs better than Intel having more cores, but i want to compare it with benchmarks not with market share.
  • Einy0 - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Both of my jobs use VMs for nearly all the servers. They both use Blade Centers with tons of VMs on them. One job site uses a mix of about 45% MS / 5% Linux / 50% AS\400 (IBM Power 770). At least 75% of the MS/Linux boxes are VMs running on vsphere on the Bladecenter. The AS/400 is basically virtualized at it's heart anyway. The other job has a total of about 560 VMs all running on vsphere. That's a mix of servers and desktops clients. 75% of the all the desktops are VMs running on Bladcenters. We use mostly RDP sessions on the client side. The other 25% of our desktop machines are used in situations where accelerated video or 3D is needed CAD/CAM/video editing and such. VMs and RDP sessions do not work well for that just yet. All of our servers(primarily SLES) are running on vSphere. We've even gone so far as to recycle old desktops into rdp clients. We can more readily share the given computing resources needed this way while remaining efficient and keeping our operating costs in check. It also makes management a cinch. If a given user's VM gets a virus, corrupted or what not we can simply revert it to the last snapshot. The user looses no data because all that is kept on the SAN. We provide a great user experience because our servers are equipped with lots of RAM and RAID10 SSD arrays. We can afford to upgrade our servers because the desktops and notebooks(rdp client based) don't need to be constantly upgraded and maintained. Users can log into a machine anywhere on our campus and get their own desktop, with their own files and programs they always use.
  • Jaybus - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    In trying to determine if the use of VMs has increased, it is first necessary to determine a baseline. Increased from what? VMs have been used extensivley in the enterprise world since the release of VM/370 in 1972. I worked for a company in the late 80's where every development team had their own VM and the production systems ran in VMs. Nobody kept tabs on it. It was just assumed that things worked that way at a IBM mainframe shop. Fast forward past the period when x86 processors simply weren't powerful enough to worry about VMs, I have been using VMWare xen, and now kvm for several years. As usual, the advances made decades ago in the mainframe world are being repeated in the x86 world. And once again, nobody kept tabs on VM use, at least at first. So, there is no baseline for a comparison. Nevertheless, we can be assured that VMs are being extensively used now that x86 systems are powerful enough for the job. It's not like we haven't known the benefits of virtualization for many decades.
  • Notmyusualid - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I'm a network engineer, for a global leader of telecoms equipment, and their 'craft' (think config environment) requires a MS SQL database running, and the application simply hates to run on anything but XP (and 32bit at that).

    At work we've tried all the usual suspects to get around this (who has 32bit XP on their new laptops now?), compatibility mode, XP mode to name a couple, with varied results. So, enter VM Ware with 32bit XP, and boom - config environment fires right up, on whatever host OS.

    Getting all the above running & configured, for people who are (but shouldn't be) in this job, and over the phone, is like trying to heard cats & makes me want to strap explosives to myself, as I'm usually the one told to bail them out...

    And the beauty is, I can hand my saved VM to the less-clued-up-colleague, pre-configured for the network environment he is about to visit (over a GigE connection of course), and know that he can perform his tasks on arrival.

    If VM was a girl - I'd kiss it!
  • ravib123 - Sunday, October 4, 2015 - link

    I know for us one of the reasons to use vmware as our hypervisor was the licensing costs actually saved us money.

    We were able to easily implement VSAN instead of handling storage and compute separately.

    This wouldn't be the case if we were using a different storage solution.

    In fact we deploy a lot of Hyper-V (by far the most), then KVM, then VMWare ... so I think we're very nearly the opposite of this chart.

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