Virtualizing Business Critical Applications – VMware’s Astounding Progress

One of the themes of VMworld 2013 was “Virtualize Everything”. In other words, virtualize 100% of your x86-based applications. In fact Virtualize Everything was one of the “Three Imperatives for IT” that VMware made the major themes of the show (we will discuss the other two in subsequent posts).

 Virtualizing Business Critical Applications

By now it is pretty obvious to everyone who is close to this industry that the “easy” applications were virtualized a long time ago. In the early days, the easy applications were referred to as “low hanging fruit” because they were not business-critical, they were not performance-critical, and IT typically did not need to get anyone’s permission to virtualize them.

Virtualizing business-critical applications is an entirely different exercise for the following reasons:

  1. Business-critical applications tend to have owners or constituents who have a say in where those applications run. In fact, it is often the case that the application owner controls the budget for the hardware upon which their applications run.
  2. The fact that the application owner controls the budget upon which the business-critical applications run means that this hardware is often massively over-provisioned. This is often done on purpose in order to minimize the chance that momentary capacity constraints or resource contention will affect application performance.
  3. Telling the business owner of a business-critical application that they are going to lose their dedicated hardware, that their application is going to run in a shared services environment, and that “everything is going to be OK” is a difficult sell to the application owner since it is counter to their experience.

With the above difficulties associated with virtualizing business-critical applications in mind, it is astounding how much progress VMware has made on this front, and it is even more astounding how that rate of progress has changed over time.

(Click on the Chart to Expand It)

Virtualizing Business Critical Applications VMware Progress

In the chart above, which is based upon data that VMware has presented at the last couple of VMworlds, we can use progress virtualizing Oracle databases and SAP as proxies (indicators) of the progress that VMware is making virtualizing business-critical applications. What really pops out is that for the last two years, not only has VMware made great progress with Oracle databases (and presumably all of the application systems that rely upon them) and SAP, but how the rate of progress has changed (if you remember your calculus, changes in rates are important):

  • For Oracle databases the difference two years ago was 35% – 28% or 7%. The difference in the last year was 49% – 35% or 14%. So not only did VMware make progress, but the rate at which VMware made progress accelerated from 7% year over year to 14% year over year.
  • For SAP the difference two years ago was 40% – 29% or 11%. The difference in the last year was 53% – 40% or 13%. So again VMware made progress but the rate at which VMware made progress increased from 11% to 13%.

Using driving as an analogy (do not do this at home) this is like going from 60 MPH to 70 MPH in one minute and then going from 70 MPH to 85MPH in the next minute. Obviously as we approach 100% virtualization both the rate of progress and the rate of virtualization will slow down, just as the rate that the car can increase speeds will slow down as it approaches its maximum speed.

Is 100% Virtualization Feasible?

VMware’s progress virtualizing business-critical applications certainly makes the case that it is for many organizations. Most organizations do not have applications that are tougher to virtualize than SAP or the kind of business-critical and performance-critical applications for which customers use an Oracle database as the back end (customers do not spend that kind of money on the back end database for an application unless is REALLY matters).

Therefore, absent corner cases of applications running on operating systems which VMware does not support as a guest (no example comes to mind), or applications tied to specific server hardware for which virtual drivers to do exist, it seems that VMware has proposed a feasible goal for itself and its enterprise customers.


VMware continues to make astounding progress virtualizing business-critical applications – as evidenced by its increasing rate of progress virtualizing SAP, Oracle databases, and application systems supported by Oracle databases. The goal of 100% x86 virtualization appears to attainable for most enterprises.

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