Enterprises as a whole may be holding off on virtualising their data centres, but the majority of top-tier US and UK banks are already implementing virtualisation across different parts of their infrastructures, according to just-released Microsoft-funded research.

Earlier this week, a Microsoft executive highlighted the fact that fewer than 10 percent of data centres are currently virtualised, according to research firm IDC.

The new report, carried out by KRC Research, indicates that in some sectors, at least, the figure is far higher: 58 percent of large, tier-one banks are implementing virtualisation across some aspect of infrastructure.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they were using virtualisation for applications management, 54 percent for networking, 48 percent for operating systems and 27 percent for presentation, meaning the execution of applications from a remote computer.

Virtualisation wasn't implemented purely for cost-cutting purposes, the survey found, with only 53 percent of those using virtualisation saying it saved them money.

The benefits cited by respondents ranged across the board, with 53 percent saying they used it for centralised deployment and management of applications, 51 percent responding to technical failures, 46 percent simply to save space, 46 percent for security and 34 percent to save energy.

The Virtualisation in Banking Survey 2008 was conducted in February 2008 and is based on responses from 100 senior IT decision-makers from US and UK retail banks with assets of more than $25 billion.

Microsoft said the high level of virtualisation in banks may be a direct result of increasing market pressure on banks to reduce costs and manage IT resources more centrally. Banks also tend to be early adopters of IT, according to Microsoft.

Another reason for the disparity may be that the survey covers only the largest banks. Virtualisation still presents serious management challenges, making it too complicated for many companies to attempt, Windows enterprise and management division general manager Larry Orecklin said in an interview earlier this week.

Licensing issues are also playing a part in hampering virtualisation take-up, a Burton Group study found in February. Many software vendors either refuse to support their applications running in virtualised environments, or support virtual servers only on certain platforms, the study found.