Off to New Horizons

May 7, 2009 by Michael Zipf

SAP Virtualization Week in Palo Alto, California (Photo: SAP AG)

Experts agree that “virtualization” and “cloud computing” are currently the most overused buzzwords in the IT industry. But there’s good reason for this. After all, all companies are on the lookout for ways to manage their budgets more effectively and reduce operating and capital costs.

Yet these IT trends seem to be the perfect way to cut costs, react more rapidly to new requirements, and at the same time minimize a company’s impact on the environment.

However, there’s also consensus among experts that cloud computing is still very much in its infancy – and that most companies don’t have any idea about whether or how they should shift business processes to a third-party on-demand infrastructure beyond their own company boundaries.

Virtualization and server landscapes

Virtualization – a Hot Topic

At the end of 2008, market researchers at Gartner revealed the importance that industry attaches to virtualization. In fact, virtualization was given the number one slot in Gartner’s top 10 list of most important strategic technologies for 2009.

In contrast, virtualization has taken hold in many organizations as the basis for operating computer centers. An increasing number of companies are opting for virtualization, particularly for their server landscapes.

But virtualization has a myriad of other benefits, as SAP’s third annual Virtualization Week held at SAP Labs North America in Palo Alto, California made clear.

In the SAP Co-Innovation Lab, around 100 partners, customers, and SAP experts got together with as many interested parties on the Internet to discuss the future opportunities provided by virtualization, including how it impacts storage, networks, and desktops.

And some participants thought even further ahead – to a time where not only companies but also private individuals would take advantage of virtual applications.

Virtualization solution providers are looking forward to a bright future. “2009 will be a great year for this topic,” said Alan Murphy from the Seattle-headquartered infrastructure provider F5. And Doug Emmons from EMC, headquartered in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, anticipated that the number of companies that use virtualization solutions “will rapidly increase” in the next six to 18 months.

While they are motivated by different factors, they all face similar issues.

  • Many servers work at a capacity of between only 10 and 20%.
  • Around half the energy in a computer center is used just to cool the servers. Another 40% is consumed by the servers when they are more or less idle.
  • Computer centers are growing, but by 2012 around half of all companies will no longer have the space for new servers on their premises.

The first natural step toward Green IT

The Green IT Community

To intensify dialog about Green IT with its customers and partners, SAP recently set up a Green IT community. Many customers and partners have already joined the community to launch joint sustainability development initiatives and exchange research findings and best practices.

More info: GreenIT@sap.com

According to Peter Graf, SAP’s first Chief Sustainability Officer, virtualization is for many companies “the first natural step to achieving their Green IT goals,” especially in the current financial crisis. This doesn’t just mean cutting energy consumption and, as a result, carbon dioxide emissions.

Graf added, “Managing operations more sustainably also means reducing costs and increasing profitability. Sustainability isn’t a luxury – it makes economic sense.”

SAP has always helped companies deploy their resources efficiently and sustainably, said Zia Yusuf, thinking back to the early days of enterprise resource planning (ERP). Yusuf, who is head of the Global Ecosystem and Partner Group at SAP, encouraged SAP Virtualization Week participants to work together to find solutions so that companies can gain even more from virtualization solutions. He also believes that customers could profit much more from virtualization than they currently do.

Eleven servers instead of 400 – thanks to virtualization

Nevertheless, the SAP customers who gave presentations in Palo Alto reported some impressive figures. Lockheed Martin, a global security and information technology company operating in the aeronautics, electronics, and space industries, reported on a case where they now need only 11 physical servers – instead of over 400.

They achieved this by optimizing the system landscape through virtualization, and as a result reducing the number of applications.

With the help of IBM virtualization solutions, Graybar, a leading North American distributor of electronic, communication, and network products, succeeded in optimizing data storage to such an extent that it can be managed by just two administrators. Quite an achievement with around 14 million transactions each day.

The best solution at the most affordable price

SAP aims to give its customers the best solution at the most affordable price, explained SAP expert Roland Wartenberg, who organized the SAP Virtualization Week. Virtualization is a key ingredient here, and one which SAP relies on its partners for – regardless of whether a company operates its solutions in its own computer center, on demand, or even over the Internet in an external cloud.

And again, the experts agreed: Despite all the discussion about virtualization and cloud computing,the future will still see highly heterogeneous IT landscapes with business processes implemented in a multitude of ways.

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