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Small Businesses, Big Prospects

I recently had an interesting, fact-filled conversation with Tom Bittman, a VP and distinguished analyst for Gartner, who had just returned from the company's Gartner Symposium, where he was force-fed so much good info that his head was in danger of exploding when we spoke. Fortunately, he made it through our conversation without any untimely cranial events.

Although we hit on several topics, including private cloud computing (in a show of hands, 75 percent of Symposium attendees said they viewed it as a core technology), Citrix ("They are literally caught between a rock and a hard place"), and interoperability (when VMware sees it is in their interest), I'm here today to talk about Bittman's take on the dynamics of virtualization adoption at small businesses with 100 to 999 employees.

Gartner recently did a survey of 1,394 of these small businesses in nine countries around the world. One of the questions put to participants asked if their organizations had started investing in virtualization or if they planned to do so during 2009. Some 41 percent of U.S. respondents said they had started before 2009, while 35 percent said they are planning to virtualize during 2009.

Bittman is impressed by those numbers. "If you look across the entire world, what we basically see is virtualization doubling, so the number of people who did it before 2009 is doubling," Bittman declares. "Roughly 70 to 80 percent of small businesses will have started by the end of this year. So two years ago, small business was not on the map, and now it's really taking off."

He also shared some info based on word of mouth and other anecdotal sources. Specifically, while large enterprises tend to virtualize as they add new hardware, meaning they do it incrementally over a 4-6-year period, small businesses tend to virtualize as a project. As such, Bittman says, they may go from zero to 60 percent to 70 percent or even 100 percent virtualization within the scope of a single project. It's not unusual for them to seek out a systems integrator who claims to have virtualization experience, and then just go ahead and take the plunge. He goes on to note that some of these gung-ho users also end up getting burned.

"My point is, we're going from a market that was driven almost entirely by large enterprise to the new engine of growth -- at least for the next few years -- being small business," he states, "and we're also seeing while large enterprises might be in the range of 25 percent penetrated, small businesses are currently single digits in terms of how many workloads are virtualized. However, we're saying by the end of next year, small businesses will have a higher percentage of penetration than large enterprises."

Sounds like a recipe for success that features Redmond as a prime ingredient.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 11/03/2009 at 12:48 PM


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