With virtual desktop technology and many forms of virtual infrastructure quickly making inroads into nearly every part of the private sector, it should come as no surprise to most that government IT departments are also looking to take advantage.

According to a report from CRM Buyer, efforts by the administration of President Barack Obama have helped drive a move toward more modernized IT services in government departments plagued by badly outmoded systems.

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel recently stated that new technology is a boon to many agencies, the news source said.

"We are seizing on the power of 21st century technology to consolidate data centers and moving to lightweight, shareable technologies, such as cloud computing, while also directing agencies to consolidate commodity IT services, and shift to shared services," he said, according to CRM Buyer.

As the government's move toward cloud computing in general becomes increasingly clear, so too has the field of vendors hoping to help satisfy this increased need for heavily virtualized technology, the publication added. Researchers from Deltek said that there are already obvious front-runners.

"Right now, VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoft are the market leaders in federal virtualization. Leading platforms include VMware's vSphere, Citrix's XenServer, and Microsoft's Hyper-V. I would look for these three to continue to lead the pack as the federal virtualization market develops," principal analyst Brian Coyle said in a recent interview with CRM Buyer.

Other experts, including Gartner Research vice president Tom Bittman, told the publication that VMware's experience with the larger implementations of virtual infrastructure technology have served it well in the public sector market.

Nevertheless, there will be challenges ahead for government IT professionals looking to work with virtualization. For one thing, CRM Buyer reported, many of the major vendors monetize their services in different ways. This can make it tricky to compare prices in an apples-to-apples fashion, particularly when companies offer distinct billing options.

That said, the appeal of increased centralization, better flexibility and - most of all - lower costs have public sector CIOs just as excited as their counterparts in the business world. While virtualization must be handled with care, the technology can be a game-changer for many organizations.

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