Virtualization has found its place in the enterprise and it will stay there. For virtualization, 2011 won't be a year of dramatic changes but still there will be interesting things to observe. Here's a look at what we see happening in virtualization in 2011.

1. More Room to Grow

The most important trend we'll observe in 2011 is that the virtualization market will continue to grow. We haven't reached the end of the road -- companies who are still not using virtualization will turn to it. The Market Intel Group predicts the “forecasted cumulative global market topping US$ 290 billion for the Virtualization sector, and US$ 300 billion for the Cloud Computing sector, over the report’s period (2011-2016)”.

These figures are good news and if the economy is still in poor shape (which is likely to happen), this will push the adoption of virtualization technologies because they can help save money.

2. SMB Will Be More Active

Virtualization started as a "big guy's" game but it has stopped being a privilege for huge companies only. Still, small businesses, and to a lesser degree mid-sized enterprises, aren't using virtualization as much as they could. SMB is a market with a huge potential and with the right solutions, SMB can more actively embrace virtualization.

Many virtualization vendors have offerings for SMBs and this is likely to trigger the interest of small companies. For instance, Microsoft Hyper-V is commonly regarded as the virtualization solution for SMB. The predictions of Data Center Knowledge are that in 2011, about 35 percent of SMBs will deploy Hyper-V.

3. Automation on The Rise

With the number of virtualized machines on the rise, the need to service them easily and more efficiently becomes obvious. Manual maintenance of hundreds and thousands of machines is a gruesome task and this is why companies will need reliable automation solutions. Well, we'll hardly see a fully automated virtualized platform in 2011 but let's hope we'll at least move a step in this direction.

4. Better Backup, Recovery and Live Migration Tools

The need for tools to manage virtualized environments is not limited to automation only. Backup, recovery and live migration are tasks frequently performed by admins without the proper tools developed specifically for virtualized environments. This has made these tasks hard to do properly.Virtualization vendors definitely know this and let's hope that they are working on the tools to ease the administration of virtualized environments.

5. Desktop Virtualization Will Continue to Grow

Desktop virtualization was somehow unnoticed in the few last years, but this will change in 2011. Virtualized desktops save money because you need less hardware to run the same number of physical machines. With the transition to Windows 7 in many enterprises who are still running Windows Vista or even versions of Windows XP, desktop virtualization can save a lot of money. With it, you won't need to buy powerful new hardware to run Windows 7 on.

Learning Opportunities

On the other hand, even if funding for new and powerful hardware is available, there are many legacy Windows XP applications still in use. Because of this, it might be impractical to ditch Windows XP. Having users with two physical machines -- one with Windows 7 and one with Windows XP is not a solution, especially when you can have one machine with one OS as a host and the other running in a virtualized environment. This is where desktop virtualization comes to the rescue.

6. More Macs in Virtual Machines

Desktop virtualization won't affect only the Windows family of operating systems. Some analysts predict that in 2011 we'll see more Macs in the enterprise. No, Macs as hosts won't take the world by storm -- they are good for end users and designers but as an enterprise operating platform they are certainly not the best choice. Still, thanks to the splash caused by the iPad and MacBook Air, more and more users are getting addicted to Macs and their applications and this inevitably will push forward the desire to have Mac OS in the enterprise.

7. Storage Virtualization Will Also Grow Its Share

When we discuss virtualization, we typically refer to server virtualization only. However, storage virtualization is also a segment to consider. In 2011, storage virtualization will also grow, though it will hardly catch up with the popularity of server virtualization.

The factors for growth are the need for more disk space without additional processing power and the availability of NAS products that combine decent capacity with affordable price.

What's Left?

These are the major trends we expect to see in the virtualization market in 2011. Provided it happens, the progress might seem significant but there is still a lot to look forward to. For instance, will we see in 2011 versions of applications that are specifically tailored to the needs of virtualized environments? We know that many applications behave strangely when virtualized, so why not have virtualization-friendly versions?

Do you think we are on target for virtualization in 2011? We welcome your thoughts and comments below.