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Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is a Virtual Data Center and a Big (Apple) Mac on my office desktop

The latest independent joint ITIC/Sunbelt Software survey found that demand and deployment for several technology sectors – most notably server and application virtualization – will remain robust in direct contrast to the bearish global economic climate.

ITIC and Sunbelt, polled C-level executives and network administrators at over 700 corporations worldwide on a variety of technology and business related topics. The Web-based survey included multiple choice and essay responses. In addition, ITIC and Sunbelt conducted two dozen first person customer interviews to validate the survey responses. ITIC and Sunbelt received no vendor sponsorship for this research. Additionally, no vendors had any influence or input into the survey or the results and none of the survey respondents received any remuneration for their participation. Approximately 85% of the respondents came from North America; the remaining 15% came from 20 countries including Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Virtualization Results

Virtually Yours: Server Virtualization Still a Top Priority in the Datacenter

Virtualization remains a high growth technology area, and the survey found that the market leaders – VMware, Microsoft and Citrix are all consolidating their positions. The survey also showed that while desktop and application virtualization will play a pivotal role for businesses – particularly enterprises with > 500 end users, the market will not materialize as quickly as it did for server virtualization. Among the survey highlights:

  • VMware remains the market leader but Microsoft’s Hyper-V is closing the gap. In response to a question in which we asked customers to select ALL the virtualization products they plan to use/deploy in 2009, nearly 60% said they plan to deploy VMware’s ESX Server (29%) or the free VMware Server (30%) . However, 52% of the respondents indicated they will use Microsoft’s Hyper-V or the older Microsoft Virtual Server; 37% of respondents indicated they will opt for Hyper-V compared with the remaining 15% who said they will use the older Virtual Server. This percentage is double the number of survey respondents who indicated they would use Microsoft hypervisor solutions when we polled users in a 2007 survey.
  • When it comes to Application Virtualization solutions, Microsoft’s App-V is the market leader, clearly beating VMware’s ThinApp by a 2-to-1 margin, which also came trailed Citrix’s XenApp 5.0. That said, it must be noted that thus far, only about 15% of the survey respondents have fully virtualized their applications across the entire enterprise.
  • It’s still very early in the game for the emerging application virtualization market: nearly two-thirds — 62% — of businesses have not yet even begun to deploy application virtualization in production environments (though pilot networks abound) or even chosen an application virtualization vendor.
  • Interestingly, in spite of cost constraints and pressures on IT budgets, only 7% of the survey respondents said they had attempted to renegotiate the terms and conditions of their virtualization licensing contracts to get better deals. Another 27% said they were studying the issue but had not yet made any definitive attempts to renegotiate and 66% said “No.”

Microsoft Vista: Most Users “Surprisingly” Satisfied

On the Windows desktop OS front, the ITIC/Sunbelt survey respondents gave Microsoft’s much maligned Vista operating system surprisingly high satisfaction ratings. We say “surprising” because Vista has gotten a lot of bad ink, much of it undeserved. Overall, 59% of the survey respondents said Vista was “Excellent”, “very good” or “good.” Despite these grades though, 45% of those polled said they would skip Vista and go directly to Windows 7 when that desktop OS ships in early 2010. Drilling further into the Vista responses:

  • To date, only 10% of the 700 survey respondents’ organizations have deployed Vista.
  • Windows XP is the primary desktop OS for 88% of the respondents.
  • Vista seems a victim of Windows XP’s success: Among the 45% of survey respondents who indicated they’ll skip Vista, the main reason(s) cited were cost constraints and the prevailing feeling that Windows XP is more than adequately meeting corporations’ business and technology needs.
  • The Vista experience was much better than anticipated for the 10% of companies that use Vista is their primary desktop OS: 27% rated Vista’s performance, reliability and security Excellent or Very Good; another 32% rated it “Good”, 19% said it was “Satisfactory.” Only 19% gave it an “Unsatisfactory” rating, mainly due to application incompatibility problems.

One recurring theme among the survey respondents was that since Windows XP is getting the job done, there’s no compelling business reason to upgrade to Vista.

“Windows XP, Windows 2003 and our other applications are more than adequate for now,” said one network administrator. “That means we will be investing very little in new infrastructure for the next couple of years. The constant upgrade progression for the sake of “keeping current” is dead for now,” he added.

The Vista desktop OS – all six flavors – is generally solid. The biggest impediment facing large enterprises deploying Vista is application incompatibility. This problem is especially acute in large enterprises that have dozens of third party applications associated with specific vertical markets. Consider the case of one such enterprise based in the Northeast with over 3,000 end users.

The company’s IT manager said his firm was 65% deployed onto Vista Business but, he noted, two of his crucial application vendors “have not yet migrated their products.” One is a financial application and the other is a GIS application. “They [the ISVs] have promised compliance by the end of 2009 so we plan to be 100% deployed on Vista by Q1 2010. At that time we’ll be ready to continue our normal replacement cycle (30% per year) deploying Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in late 2010!”

Apple Macintosh Enterprise Usage Continues to Grow

And finally, Apple Mac and OS X 10.x continue to make inroads in the enterprise.

  • Over two-thirds of the 700 survey respondents – 68% — indicated they are likely to allow their end users to deploy Macs as their corporate enterprise desktops in the next 12 months.
  • Almost one-quarter or 23% have a significant number of Macintoshes (> 50) present in their organizations. Apple Macs have long been a favorite of company executives, but the survey responses clearly indicate that Mac usage has filtered down to rank and file knowledge workers across the enterprise.
  • Half of all the survey respondents – 50% — said they plan to increase integration with existing Apple consumer products such as the iPhone to allow users to access corporate Email and other applications. This augurs well for the iPhone to establish itself as a viable alternative to Research In Motion’s (RIM) as a mobile device that allows users to access Email and other collaboration applications.

In summary, the ITIC/Sunbelt survey responses show that businesses will find themselves challenged to do more with fewer resources. The respondents also exhibited their practicality and resourcefulness in extending the lifespan of still-useful technologies like Windows XP. However those who have the need and the budget, will get an able assist from emerging technologies like virtualization – and for those that correctly configure and deploy them – Vista and the Mac and OS X 10.x

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to support SQL Server 2008 and keep the momentum going for its latest enhanced database offering. On September 29, the company will launch the SQL Server 2008 Experience, a year-long series of in-person events designed to introduce “350,000+ customers, partners and community members” to the new features and benefits of its database offering.

Additionally, Microsoft is touting the merits of SQL Server 2008 on a new Website: http://www.moresqlserver.com. And it also just released the results of the new Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) performance benchmark tests for Microsoft SQL Server 2008. The TPC ranked Microsoft SQL Server 2008 #1 on price/performance on servers using Intel’s new Dunnington x64 processors, and as the top performance leader using IBM’s new System x3950 M2 server.

There’s no doubt that SQL Server 2008 boasts greatly improved features, functions, scalability, security, management and reliability compared to the 2005 version, and a more powerful, robust and manageable SQL Server 2008 is a must for Microsoft. The company is going head to head with industry powerhouses including IBM’s DB2 and Oracle’s 11g database running on Linux. So 2009 is shaping up to be an extremely competitive and crucial year for database vendors and their respective customers.

At this point, Microsoft is a strong number three behind Oracle and IBM in the database arena, according to both Gartner Group and IDC. The latest statistics show Oracle with approximately 42% market share; IBM second with about 21% and Microsoft with an estimated 19% of the database market. The financial stakes are also high: Oracle’s database revenue is well over $7 billion; IBM realizes close to $3.5 billion from database sales and Microsoft SQL Server generates close to $3 billion in annual sales.

In order to retain its existing installed base and increase its presence – particularly among SMBs and large enterprises, Microsoft must hit the ground running with SQL Server 2008. There is no margin for error from either a technical or a marketing standpoint. Hence, Microsoft is marshalling all its forces.

SQL Server 2008 incorporates a slew of new management capabilities such as: policy management; configuration servers; data collector/management warehouse and a multiple server query capability. Such features are crucial for database administrators, particularly those in large enterprises who are charged with overseeing complex and geographically dispersed database environments that may include hundreds or thousands of physical and virtual servers encompassing tens of thousands of databases.

The SQL Server 2008 Policy Management feature enables database administrators to create and execute configuration policies against one or more servers while the Data Collector facility obviates the need for managers to create custom solutions to cull data from their database server environments.

Data Collector lets administrators utilize the SQL Server Agent and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to create a framework that collects and stores data while delivering a detailed history of error handling, auditing, and collection.

Just as important as SQL Server 2008’s new management functions are the accompanying documentation and training that Microsoft is making available for the database platform via its Website, TechNet and its Software Assurance maintenance and upgrade program. Vendor rivalries aside, the chief impediments to users upgrading to any new software platform are the cost and complexity of the migration. These factors are even more crucial when weighed against the cost constraints of the current economic downturn. Microsoft’s TechNet provides SQL Server 2008 customers with ample, “at-your-fingertips” documentation and troubleshooting tips as they prepare to upgrade.

In addition, customers who have purchased Microsoft’s Software Assurance will be able to get significant discounts on training as well as access to Elearning tools. The combination of TechNet and Software Assurance can save IT departments and the corporation untold thousands to millions in capital and operational expenditures and cut upgrade time by 25% to 65% depending on the size and scope of the deployment. And in the event that any significant bugs or performance glitches arise, Microsoft must move quickly and decisively to publicly address the problems and issue the necessary patches without dissembling or temporizing.

Overall, Microsoft has assembled all of the necessary technology and business components to make SQL Server 2008 a winner. The latest Microsoft database has the performance, scalability and management to make the upgrade path easy. The excellent documentation and technical support offered by TechNet is also a plus. Companies worried about budgetary constraints (and who isn’t?) will also find monetary relief from the inherent value of the myriad Software Assurance benefits.