Virtualisation will have the single largest impact on budgets for IT hardware and support over the next three years, a market that will be dominated by three large vendors, says a new study.

Saugatuck Technology's new report, entitled "The Many Faces of Virtualisation – Understanding a New IT Reality," finds that Cisco, VMware, and Citrix, which recently acquired XenSource, will account for 60 percent of all new virtualisation deployments. The second largest spend will be on network virtualisation, according to the research.

A third key finding of the study is that all facets of IT virtualisation will see substantial enhancements in functionality and performance, with the most significant enhancements in virtualisation technology being found in microprocessor, hypervisor, and operating systems.

The background to the report is Saugatuck's finding that "virtualisation is a key enabler of IT and business efficiency, but it is vastly misunderstood and underestimated within user enterprises. As a result, user executives fail to effectively manage it, and therefore fail to realise the full potential and benefits of IT virtualisation. And IT vendors seldom realise the breadth and depth of opportunity that IT virtualisation presents to them."

According to the research company, the study "provides previously unseen depth and explanation of the rapidly-evolving topology of IT virtualisation in its many forms, from servers to mainframes, to applications to storage to networks."

“We’re at a very critical point in the evolution and adoption of virtualisation by both users and vendors. Almost everyone sees opportunity in virtualisation, but very few really grasp its scope and complexity," said Saugatuck VP and study author Charles Burns. Presumably he has in mind issues such as virtualisation security, about which Gartner last year warned of the risks.

“That leads to a lot of missed opportunities – and some very inflated costs of management", continued Burns. "Our goal with this study is to provide a foundation for understanding key categories of virtualisation, their benefits, and how to manage them effectively.”

“This study is the first attempt that we’ve seen to use real-world expertise and practicality to classify and explain the types and effects of IT virtualisation, in terms that both user and vendor executives can understand, and can profit from,” said Saugatuck founder and CEO Bill McNee. “This is a solid foundation from which executives can educate themselves, and begin planning more effective management of virtualisation.”

The study is available here.