Infrastructure virtualisation will be the dominate technology in datacentres within the next few years, thanks to the convergence of three significant factors in the global economy, according to analyst firm Butler Group.

Virtualisation is the practice of running a layer of software on a server that allows multiple operating systems and environments to run on the same piece of hardware as if they were separate physical servers. Virtualisation allows computing resources to be used more efficiently and also allows much greater flexibility in managing and allocating these resources.

Many vendors are touting the benefits of virtualisation, and it is perhaps no surprise then that Butler thinks the technology is set to dominate the datacentre.

The three factors influencing this, says Butler in its report, "Infrastructure Virtualization," are the need for organisations to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint; the increasing need of being able to respond quicker to market opportunities; and the drive towards automation in order to reduce operational costs.

Butler warns however, that infrastructure virtualisation requires a significant change in an organisation’s culture from both an IT and business perspective. Companies have to move away from their "siloed business unit autonomy position towards a virtual business process-driven architecture." This is supported by the adoption of infrastructure virtualisation.

It believes an organisation running 250 dual-core servers can gain a cost saving of £2 million over three years from server consolidation alone. Furthermore, power saving in the order of £78,000 per 1000 PCs per year can be realised by moving from a full desktop PC infrastructure, to a server-hosted desktop virtualisation solution.

Of course, moving from physical to virtual might appear to be straightforward on paper, but the migration of production systems into a virtual environment presents a very real set of challenges, says Butler.

It also thinks storage virtualisation can help organisations to manage their storage resources more efficiently in order to achieve higher utilisation rates.

On average, organisations can save £4000 per 1000 help desk calls per month through the promotion of user self-service and a reduction in application-related help desk calls, Butler estimates. But it warns that IT managers and enterprise architects must understand and appreciate the key elements and concepts of network virtualisation if they are to run successful IT virtualisation projects.

Finally, Butler believes that even greater benefit can be obtained through the strategic adoption of virtualisation in the datacentre, and that infrastructure running cost-reductions in the order of 40-60 percent are certainly attainable in many cases.