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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  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I run virtual machines on my home PC (Phenom X4). It's a nice way to sample different linux distros without resorting to partitioning or buying and installing a second HDD. Also, if one jumps to linux, yet still needs windows for occasional tasks, a VM is much quicker than a reboot. I know coupon printing refuses to work in linux, and IE in wine just doesn't work.
  • HMTK - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    In most cases it's not a even question whether to virtualize or not since it doesn't make sense not to virtualize. That "VMware" (ESX/ESXi perhaps?) is the most widely used hypervisor should not be a surprise either. It's got a considerable install base, excellent third party support and it's just damn good. Too bad VMware has pissed off many users with it's licensing changes. KVM and Xen are not the big contenders right now: Hyper-V is. I'd like to this graph again a year from now.
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Could not agree more. VMware vSphere is a rock solid, high performing and "keep its promises" software...that is rare in the software world. But people who like to kill the goose with golden eggs always manage to get into the management of successful enterprises. The current licensing is really driving people into the arms of Microsoft, which is growing 3 times as fast.
  • Braumin - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Yeah I have to agree that there basically is no x86 workload anymore that can't be run on VMware. vSphere 5 has really increased the virtual maximums.

    I need to look at Hyper-V though. As expected, they had a mediocre product at launch, but have been aggresively updating it to close the feature gap with VMware. They are still behind, but way less than even 2 years ago.
  • esSJae - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Ah, how do you run ESXi on Ubuntu server? ESXi installs on the hardware level. I'd guess that the VMWare here is either Player, Workstation, or Server.

    From the survey: “If you use your Ubuntu servers as a host for virtualisation, which product(s)/technology(ies) do you use?”
  • PreOmegaZero - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    You can run ESXi in a VM. HOW they are doing it is the interesting part: KVM or Workstation for Linux running an ESXi VM?
  • physical - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    It is interesting to note that Hyper-V doesn't appear on the graph. We are implementing a Hyper-V solution in our infrastructure.
    It's also too bad that all of VMware's products are grouped together in a single statistic.
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    The graph is a survey by Canonical of customers using Ubuntu Server. Hyper-V does not support Ubuntu Server, and so will probably never appear on the graph.

    Hyper-V only supports SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and CentOS. Yes, you might technically be able to run other distributions inside of it, but you'll rarely find that kind of a thing in enterprise (running unsupported operating systems).
  • cbf - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Actually, I think you'll find that Microsoft is creeping closer and closer to supporting a wider variety of Linux distributions on Hyper-V. (See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/02/microsoft_... -- admittedly that article is in The Register).

    I expect some sort of official announcement might not be that far away. It appears that the Hyper-V guys are eager to do what they need to do to take business away from VMWare.

    We're currently running Ubuntu server under Hyper-V, but we did have to struggle around some kernel bugs with Hyper-V's network cards. Interestingly enough though, the fixes we needed were checked in to the Linux kernel by Microsoft employees.
  • Shining Arcanine - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    cbf, I think you misunderstood Guspaz's comment. Canonical did a survey to determine what software people used to virtualize software on a Ubuntu host OS. Unless Microsoft plans to make Ubuntu a future host OS for Hyper-V, this is unlikely to change.

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