One of the biggest challenges facing IT management over the next four years is the optimisation of infrastructure and the resultant lowering of costs.

Chris Norton, regional manager of VMWare, says Gartner has established that maintaining server infrastructures can take up 65% of an IT budget.
"The number of servers is increasing by up to 12% each year and server utilisation is reducing and now stands at just 6% on average while management costs are rising faster than hardware costs are falling."
Virtualisation, optimisation and consolidation are key issues and Norton said that Gartner are on record as having predicted that by the end of 2010 all new PC deployments will be virtualised with virtualisation being the highest impact trend in infrastructure to 2012.
"Virtualisation is a fundamentally better architecture, allowing several operating systems to run on a single machine and sustaining the creation of shared pools of resources to optimise the use of IT infrastructure and investments."
Inefficiency and excess server capacity have increased with high core counts and large memory in fragmented IT environments where the infrastructure has been increasingly managed in operating system-specific silos to the point where IDC estimated that there is more than US$140-billion tied up in excess server capacity.
"This is compounded by pressures to comply with security and regulatory requirements and to achieve more with less. Efficiency, expressed as server utilisation rates has declined from 60% to just 10%  over just seven years and the environment is one where resources are less able to add new functionality or improve IT service levels."
Norton adds that critical business problems to be solved include the consolidation and containment of servers, optimisation of infrastructure, management and security of desktops, maximisation of continuity and uptime and the automation of virtual laboratories.
"There are major issues facing companies over server sprawl, rising management costs, decreasing server utilisation and environmental impacts as just one blade server generates four tons of carbon dioxide a year. The virtualisation adoption path needs to begin with immediate needs, but be scaled for enterprise benefits, through partition and server consolidation to save capital expenditure costs.
"Operational cost savings can then be obtained by virtualising production servers, achieving high availability and balanced workloads supported by disaster recovery. Thereafter the automation of IT processes, creation of resource pools, provision of capacity on demand and infrastructure-wide management will provide strategic business benefits such as agility, flexibility and uptime."
The evolution of virtualisation, Norton added, takes place over five phases from "separation" (testing and development), consolidation (sever consolidation), aggregation (capacity on demand), automation (self-managing data centre) and liberation (computing clouds).
In support of significant adoption of virtualisation, Norton said that by the end of 2009, hardware vendors will begin to announce 4u rack-mountable servers with 256 cores and 1Tb of RAM, and predicts that in three to five years, Hypervisors will become the operating systems of the future and virtual appliances will replace applications.
"Companies using virtualisation already have an average of 24% of their servers virtualised and this is expected to almost double to 45% by 2009 with appreciable benefits in environmental standards, efficiency and cost reduction."