Virtualization will be the most-important trend for servers through 2012, but there are six basic best practices enterprises should consider before they virtualize their servers, according to Gartner.

While the return on investment (ROI) is compelling, virtualization can be implemented badly in costs, management strategy, approach, architecture and software. Many of these problems can be avoided if enterprises make the proper assessments before they virtualize their machines.

"In the next five years, the immature server virtualization market will mature, as competition evolves and forces changes in pricing," said John Enck, vice president and research director at Gartner. "Most enterprises can't afford to wait for the market to mature -- server sprawl, data center space and power problems are here now. Organizations deploying at least 50 virtual machines per year will be able to build a business case with rapid ROI now."

"With the right virtualization approach and strategy, and with a long-term plan on the changes that virtualization will make to server management processes and tools, enterprises will effectively leverage virtualization now and will re-architect their servers to become a more efficient, fluid pool of dynamic capacity," said Thomas Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Not only will data center space and power problems be resolved, at least temporarily, but IT will become a much more efficient and flexible provider of server capacity to its customers."

Analysts have had thousands of client interactions on x86 server virtualization since 2001, and the most-common questions revolve around best practices for starting a server virtualization project. Based on conversations with more than 1,000 clients who are on their way to a mature virtualized server architecture, Gartner has identified the six best practices to consider for companies virtualize their servers.

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