Virtualisation needs to look beyond server consolidation if it is to become a success, according to chip maker AMD.
The technology is seen as the 'next big thing' for the enterprise IT market, enabling users to run multiple operating systems on a single physical system.
Both AMD and Intel have added support to their processors that helps speed up virtual systems.
Novell launched a version of its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server earlier this year that offers support for the Xen virtualisation technology, and Red Hat is scheduled to release its Xen-enabled Red Hat Enterprise Server 5 later this year.
Vendors are currently pitching virtualisation primarily as a server consolidation tool. But the technology mostly benefits large enterprises suffering from low server utilisation rates and which are running out of space in their data centres.
Increasing hardware utilisation rates allows companies to free up hardware and data centre space, thereby creating room for new applications.
"Consolidation is working in enterprises because a lot of them are feeling the cooling and rack-space issues," Margaret Lewis, director of commercial independent software vendor marketing at AMD, said in an interview with vnunet.com.
"But the next thing enterprises have to think about is how to get out of the enterprise level and drop into the mid-market. Then virtualisation becomes more of a pervasive capability."
Lewis also suggested that virtualisation would appeal to smaller companies if the technology allowed them to manage and maintain IT infrastructures more easily.
Virtualisation can cut system downtime, for example, by allowing IT staff to move an application to another server without requiring physical access to the hardware.
New applications can also be rolled out on top of a virtual operating system, allowing staff to test the software internally and deploy it without having to disrupt existing operations.
AMD is calling on software vendors to develop management tools that help
enterprises use virtualisation and allow it to become a more mainstream
"We are still at an emerging market stage," said Lewis. "It is a proven market today for certain segments, but the next two years are going to see rapid growth."
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