Businesses will have to splash out a bit more cash before they get on top of virtualisation according to Gartner analyst, Thomas Bittman.

Speaking at Gartner's infrastructure, operations and data centre summit in Sydney, Bittman said the number of virtual machines will rise from 500,000 currently in use to three million by 2009. However, he said it would be an expensive exercise for businesses and told IT managers to "stick it out" until the problems with virtualisation, such as licensing, support and emerging technologies are ironed out.

"There aren't many good virtualisation vendors out there at the moment and virtualisation is still expensive," Bittman said, adding that virtualisation will be a free service in the near future.

He said business should build a strong data centre governance strategy to fend off vendors vying for third-party control of virtualisation.

"Vendors will be competing for [data centre] governance so you need to have a solid strategy," Bittman said.

"Don't allow VMWare, IBM and Microsoft to own your governance because none of them have been able to totally deliver virtualisation yet and you don't want to be locked in."

Gartner senior analyst, Phil Sargent, said virtualisation would be part of nearly every aspect of IT by 2015 and recommended IT managers query vendors now about how they will accommodate their application with the new technology.

"Virtualisation will bring more consumer client applications into the data center which needs to be discussed with vendors as well," Sargent said.

"There are still [problems] with virtualisation in support and software licensing and not everything can be virtualised; this will clear-up over the next two to four years."

Real Time Infrastructure (RTI), a term coined by Gartner, encapsulates the benefits in improved data centre policies, SLAs, agility and cost derived from sharing infrastructure resources between businesses and internal departments.

SOA and web services, as a part of RTI, could become a "nightmare" for data centers as businesses and vendors explore the model, according to Bittman.

He said application failure will be the number one cause of unplanned downtime and will increase in businesses that use SOAs.

He cited Gartner statistics which found unplanned downtime in SOA-based businesses with be caused by application failure (60 percent), operator error (20 percent), and environmental factors (20 percent).

In contrast, unplanned downtime in non SOA-based business will be caused by application failure (40 percent), operator error (40 percent), and environmental factors (20 percent).

He said the cumbersome RTI offerings of big companies like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and IBM will falter as small dynamic players will better appeal to the market.

Power and cooling concerns will die out like last years' fashion with the arrival of specialist technology in 2011, but Bittman said data centres will need to endure insufficient technology until then.

"Power and cooling requires densities that current equipment can't handle [but] you will need to survive a few years before it is resolved," Bittman said.

Sargent pointed out increasing densities and shrinking technology is causing grief with IT managers trying to cap power use in their data centers.

Bittman also said that operating systems would be forced to diverge to meet the rising demands in thin computing which will rival the need for a centralized operating system.

"The need for a deep, general Windows and Linux will grow, but thin computing will demand a [stripped down] OS which will basically be a smaller runtime application for streaming to thin clients," Bittman said.

On the outsourcing front, big players will sink as small dynamic vendors soak up business from SMBs.

"Large companies that currently dominate the market will retain their governance while smaller, cheaper outsourcers will soak up [menial] tasks outsourced by SMBs," he said.

IT managers should focus on improving business agility and culture, noting that the best way to improve the former is to ask customers what their service expectations are.