Special Report: Virtualization

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Surveys show that most federal agencies have already deployed server virtualization, and workloads on those virtual machines are expected to nearly double in the next four years. Problems such as legacy applications that can’t easily be re-engineered might act as a brake, but with budgets being squeezed, IT professionals feel they need virtualization to do their jobs.
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The desktop PC environment is the next obvious target for virtualization. Agencies have hundreds or thousands of PCs running their own operating systems and applications, and it costs increasing amounts to maintain them. Cutting back on those costs, while at the same time centralizing desktop management and improving security, is a major lure for agencies.
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Don’t be fooled by the relatively straightforward results gained by server virtualization. Although desktop virtualization might have similar outcomes, it will take planning — and it might not be for everyone. Successful deployment means keeping the user experience intact, which could be harder than it seems.
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Cost savings and efficiency gains are givens for virtualization, but agencies are starting to realize that the technology can also be used to help with other needs. Disaster recovery, continuity of operations, telework and other requirements can all be supported by virtualization.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needed to overhaul the way it distributed vaccines to U.S. health providers, and it had to be done quickly. Hesitant at first to commit to using virtualization widely, the team in charge of the project eventually found virtualization was the only way to achieve its goals. The experience led to a “virtualize first” mandate for all of CDC’s IT projects.
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