Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

It’s not quite a virtual world after all, but if companies such as Tech Data and P&M Computers have their way, it may soon be.

Distributor Tech Data, based in Clearwater, Fla., is busily building a virtualization practice while P&M, of Cliffside Park, N.J., is out in the market evangelizing the pros of going virtual.

“I would venture that virtualization is going to become pretty ubiquitous,” said P&M President Francis Poeta. “We’re pretty evangelistic about it. We’ve seen very few models that won’t work on it.”

Virtualization software separates the physical hardware from the operating system to simulate a real computer. The software can make a single server, operating system, application or storage device appear to function as multiple logical resources. Conversely, it can make multiple physical resources appear as a single logical resource.

Because of its built-in flexibility and the ability to reduce the amount of equipment used in computing, virtualization has been gaining serious momentum.

The worldwide market for x86 virtualization solutions has grown rapidly since 2003 when it reached $205 million, according to IDC. Last year, the number topped $800 million, and IDC projects it will reach $1.8 billion by 2010.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder Tech Data, the world’s second largest IT distributor, is investing in the technology. It is one of the technologies around which the company built its Advanced Infrastructure Solutions division, said Pete Peterson, Tech Data senior vice president and general manager of the division.

Attend Ziff Davis Media’s Managed Services Virtual Tradeshow without leaving the office. Click here to register.

“We’re literally saying virtualization is here to stay and we’re building a business practice around the technology,” Peterson said.

Tech Data is compiling a roster of virtualization products, having already signed up to distribute software from open-source vendors XenSource and Virtual Iron. The distributor also has partnered with Parallels, which makes virtualization software and an application that allows Macs to run Windows, Peterson said.

The distributor doesn’t yet carry virtualization software from market leader VMware but its solution providers can get access to it through hardware preloaded with the application from vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Peterson said.

Tech Data is not only selling the technology but also using it in its own IT environment. Peterson said the distributor consolidated 130 servers into four machines running VMware.

“We’re an example of what’s going on out there,” he said.

Virtualization, he said, makes better use of hardware resources since in traditional environments physical servers typically run at 20 percent capacity or less. Peterson compares that to owning a Ferrari or Lamborghini that you can drive only in 55 mph roads.

It’s an analogy that P&M’s Poeta can relate to. His company builds virtualization solutions on top of Linux systems, and Poeta said he has talked a number of customers into using this approach.

It isn’t always easy because users often have trouble grasping how they can get more computing power from less hardware, he said, especially after they have been persuaded along the way to spend large amounts for the equipment.

“The only thing that really works is showing it to them,” he said, adding that setting up a demo only takes five to 30 minutes.

P&M is an IBM partner and Tech Data customer. Having the distributor become more active in virtualization is a plus, he said, because Tech Data will be in a position to aggregate the components needed for a full solution.

Going forward, Poeta said he believes virtualization will continue to gain momentum, especially as it makes its way into storage networks, in which a lot of companies have had to invest for archiving reasons and to meet regulatory requirements.