Nearly nine out of ten enterprises are working on virtualisation projects even if most of them are at early stages.

That's according Hewlett-Packard which has recently conducted a survey looking at companies' virtualisation plans. The company has tapped into this growing interest by introducing a new range of virtualisation products, claiming that the survey showed that most enterprises weren't making the most of what the technology has to offer.,p>

The new products include a ProLiant blade server "built from the ground up" for virtualisation, four thin-client computers for virtualising desktops, new equipment for virtualising storage and some consulting services.

Virtualisation is most widely used today for consolidating servers in data centres, which can help cut costs and reduce energy use. HP is trying to sell the technology as a way to make businesses more competitive, by freeing up IT resources that can be repurposed quickly to create new services.

"Today, many companies are focused only on how virtualisation reduces cost; we believe it enables much more," said Ann Livermore, head of HP's Technology Solutions Group, in a video on HP's website

On the desktop, HP is trying to push virtualisation beyond call centres and into offices, for use by business analysts, engineers and even financial traders. It announced four thin-client PCs that will ship in October, two with its ThinConnect operating system, one with Windows CE and one with Windows XP Embedded.

It also announced that its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) software and blade PCs now support Citrix's XenDesktop software. VDI lets a company run multiple desktop OSes on a server and is geared toward "basic productivity workers." HP also offers blade PCs, which use a dedicated server blade for each desktop environment, for workers who need more compute power.

The thin clients cost about US$199 (£107) each when bought in volume, and each blade PC works out to about $1,000, said Tad Bodeman, director of product marketing for HP's client virtualisation business.

"All of these cost the same or a bit more to buy than a desktop PC, but very quickly you'll have a return on the investment," Bodeman said. The savings come from lower management costs for centrally managed virtual desktops, a longer lifecycle for the thin-client hardware - up to seven years compared to five years for a standard desktop - and fewer incidents of lost or stolen data because the data is stored on a central server. Thin clients also consume less energy - around 25 watts compared to 100 watts or more for a desktop PC.

For the data centre, HP said its new BL495c blade server is built for virtualisation because it has 16 DIMM slots for a possible 128GB of memory, up to eight network connections per blade and two solid-state disk drives. 

"When you're consolidating underutiliszed servers into a single platform, which is what many customers are doing with virtualisation, that platform has to be very expandable," said Mark Potter, general manager of HP's BladeSystem Group. "Memory and I/O are the things that tend to get bottlenecked first."

The server comes with one or two quad-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices and hypervisor software from VMware, Citrix or Microsoft. Pricing starts at $2,449 for a single processor, 4GB of memory and the hypervisor.

Also new is StorageWorks 4400 Scaleable NAS File Services, which can be combined with HP's 4400 Enterprise Virtual Array to create a virtual storage pool that can be shared among servers connected to the system, according to HP. 

"All the servers will have read/write access to all the storage, so an administrator can create pools of storage resources that can be mapped more easily to where they need to be," Potter said.

The system comes with 4.8 terabytes of storage, expandable to 96 terabytes. It is priced from $94,270 for the Windows File Services version and $97,630 for the Linux File Services version.

HP also announced enhancements to its HP-UX operating system, some "fixed-price" consulting services and software updates for managing virtual environments. More information about the new consulting services as well as the other announcements are available on HP's website