It is premature for hosting providers to offer virtual servers and it is unlikely that virtualisation will save its users money, according to survey research conducted by Rackspace Managed Hosting, a recognised leader in the global managed hosting market.

These were two major points arising from more than 300 responses to an email survey of Rackspace customers in which 87% of those who responded confirmed they would not share a server with other hosting customers. Most of them also confirmed that they believe virtualisation is not ready for mission-critical applications.
“Perhaps companies that have already started offering virtual hosting have jumped the gun,” says Rackspace spokesman for the South African market, Geoff Dowell.
“Virtual servers appear to have only limited application in hosting and perhaps this is because although it is a maturing technology it is also a highly complex one. It allows businesses to consolidate infrastructures consisting of hundreds of servers down to 25 or so but the management and administration is extremely complicated because the management tools behind the technology are immature.”
Dowell adds that many virtualization offerings provide only shared virtual hosting, splicing physical servers with virtualization software and loading physical servers with multiple customers’ environments.
“This shared virtualisation offering, which is common among other managed hosting service providers, actually threatens the performance and security of customers’ infrastructure because each customer’s use of computing resources fluctuates and often impacts negatively on their virtual neighbours.”
The survey results support this view as 46% of respondents said they were concerned with sharing a physical server with other companies because of performance vulnerabilities and 30% said they would not share a physical server for security reasons.
Dowell confirms that Rackspace still has plans to implement virtualisation but only on condition that customers each buy a physical server which can then be partitioned into multiple virtual servers  for the sole use of the individual customer. However, customers choosing this approach should not anticipate significant savings because the system management overhead will remain the same and in some instance may be higher.
“But increased flexibility and scalability can be achieved as it is easier to move resources around to meet demand.”