Baseline Magazine has an in-depth look at the use of virtualization technologies to automate datacenter operations. The article concludes that we're not there yet, but enterprises should plan on this trend. I've got three students in my lab working on some performance studies of VMWare's ESX platform. We're doing the work for BYU's Office of Information Technology. Our hope is to reduce over 100 departmental servers to 14U of rack space (20 blades).
Our ultimate goal, however, isn't to just do the performance studies, interesting as those are, but to develop ways of using virtualization to automate more datacenter operations, reducing the long lead-time necessary to order new servers for each product and the need to rack and stack them once they arrive. Rather, our vision is that engineers could provision servers with applications installed, even complicated multi-tier arrangements, from a Web page.