As the leading research and consulting firm focused exclusively on all aspects of IT management, EMA recently conducted an extensive, in-depth study of the IT virtualization market to identify the Top 10 factors to consider before deploying a virtualization process. "A lot of questions should come to mind when considering virtualization,” said Andi Mann, EMA's senior analyst and the project lead for the research. "Do you have the right skills? Can you accept the risks? Most importantly, will it help meet your business goals?” The Top 10 factors focused on three main areas – human issues, security and risk, and technical management. "Almost all of the Top 10 came down to these three areas,” said Mann. For example, EMA research found that 74 percent of enterprises that have not deployed virtualization are not sure that they have the skills to do so. "Even of the enterprises that have deployed virtualization, over half still report that they do not have the appropriate skills,” said Mann. The report emphasizes the importance of training, consulting with experts, and working with peers through user groups and internally, to avoid some of the human issues. On security and risk, the research explains how virtualization means more systems to secure, more points of entry, more holes to patch and more interconnections. "It also introduces entirely new forms of malware that are virtually undetectable with current tools – that is a major concern that no one has solved,” said Mann. The report recommends specific actions to address security and risk, such as a phased approach to virtualization, and not locating mission-critical applications together on single physical system. Despite the current hype surround virtualization, it even suggests that highly risk-averse organizations should consider deferring plans for virtualization due to the unsolved security and risk issues. Technical management is also a big issue. The report advises enterprises that addressing technical issues early can be the difference between success and failure for virtualization deployments. The research highlights many specific issues including VM sprawl, hardware compatibility and software support – and recommends ways to deal with them, like deploying capacity planning, configuration management and cost accounting procedures. "These are just a few of the technical issues that can sink a virtualization strategy if you don't get them right,” said Mann. Maybe the most important factor in the Top 10 is perhaps the most overlooked in the rush to virtualization: Will virtualization help meet strategic business goals? Enterprises face many different choices and each requires a different approach. "EMA recommends that organizations take the time to clearly define realistic goals before deploying virtualization,” said Mann. "For example, cost saving may be an initial goal that is set at the onset. But our research shows it is one of the least likely outcomes. Enterprises must instead look to long-term strategic benefits and view virtualization as a long-term opportunity. The enterprises that approach virtualization carefully as a strategy, not just a project, will be better positioned to benefit in the long run.” Founded in 1996, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) is the leading independent industry analyst and consulting firm dedicated to the IT Management market. The firm provides IT vendors and enterprise IT professionals with objective insight into the real-world business value of long-established and emerging technologies, ranging from security, storage and service level management (SLM) to the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), virtualization and service-oriented architecture (SOA). Even with its rapid growth, EMA has never lost sight of the client, and continues to offer personalized support and convenient access to its analysts. For more information on EMA's extensive library of IT Management research, free online IT Management Solutions Center and IT consulting offerings, visit www.enterprisemanagement.com.