Virtualization Technology News and Information
Real World Virtualization: Realizing the Business Benefits of Application Virtualization

Quoting from Computer Technology Review

Do you believe virtualization is the answer to squeezing more value out of IT? Depending on whom you talk to, it is either over-hyped or the silver bullet. Like most advanced technologies, the answer lies somewhere in between. However, you cannot deny the strong growth of virtualization technologies. Already close to 100 percent of the Fortune 1000 use some form of application virtualization. Indeed, aAccording to IDC, seventy-five percent of all companies with 500+ employees are in the midst of deploying virtual servers. While there are multiple virtualization technologies available, I will focus on application virtualization technologies such as Citrix Presentation Server and server virtualization technologies such as EMC VMware. Whether you are a newbie to virtualization or are knee deep in it, this article should help you understand—and more effectively deal with—the challenges you are experiencing now or could encounter in the future.

Application Virtualization
Application virtualization is the new fancy trendy name for server-based computing. However, instead of installing applications on desktops, the applications are installed in a server farm for secure, remote access. Server virtualization allows you to take multiple physical servers and create the same number of virtual servers, or “machines,” on one host physical server.

For a first-hand perspective on how to prepare for and overcome challenges with application virtualization, I turned to Ray Leitz, CTO of AcXess, a business continuity provider for SMEs. Leitz was formerly CTO at a Fortune 150 company where his group managed a Citrix implementation with 18,000+ named users (4,500 concurrent users), 300+ published (i.e., virtualized) applications, and more than 170 servers.

According to Leitz, the biggest challenge is in dealing with two inevitable paradigm shifts. “Your administrators and end-users each will have new realities. Administrators are accustomed to supporting desktops where a poorly installed application only impacts one user. Now they are installing an application on a remote server that is published to potentially hundreds or thousands of users. This means they must be much more disciplined in testing their deployments.

“In the case of end-users, they are used to having control of their desktops. Now their desktop may be replaced by a thin client and they experience a loss of control, not understanding how this technology will benefit them.”

Because of these shifts, some expectations need to be set. “For the end-user, there are three inherent benefits you can sell them on,” says Leitz. “First, in this new virtualized world the end-user can now work securely from any device/location, including home, instead of working late at the office. Second, desktop hard drive failures are no longer catastrophic because the end-user can acquire another desktop or go somewhere else with web access to begin working again. Third, application virtualization also takes the burden of backups off of the end-user. Even if the end-user had a backup, it could take hours to restore, costing them productivity.”

Selling the end-users before rollout makes sense: once they understand these benefits—beyond saving the company money—they will be more tolerant when problems arise.

You don’t usually have to sell the administrators—do they really have a choice? However, there are some best practices that can help them be more efficient and effective once deployed. Leitz found that there were three key factors in maximizing their application virtualization investment.

1. Prepare for the worst. With application virtualization and proper planning, you can take advantage of inherent business continuity protection; such as if a server goes down, you can quickly swap in another server to handle the load. “It’s important to add excess capacity in case server(s) go down,” says Leitz. “This avoids impacting your SLAs.” However, also be sure to have a continuity plan if your data center is impacted by a disaster. Leitz continues, “Although your users can access from any remote location, you still need to ensure that the data center itself is not a single point of failure.”

2. Focus on the four A’s. A—authentication, authorization, audit, and administration are even more important because a centralized environment can open the door to internal abuse of privileges. Use the four A’s to segment employees by role, location, and department. “If you have good security and administration policies in place, you can make it very difficult for people to abuse the environment,” says Leitz.

3. Don’t overlook reporting. Beyond verifying compliance and security policies, there are many other reasons to have a robust reporting solution. In this centralized environment, you should be able to monitor usage trends such as total cost per user, over or under utilization, and licensing compliance. “The money for building a central server farm can be a big target for the CFO,” says Leitz. “Counting the costs of licensing for infrastructure, hardware, and support staff, application virtualization can result in an average savings of 40 percent or more in per-user costs per month.”

Leitz is quick to stress the critical need for a sufficient, targeted pilot rollout. He suggests including middle managers as a pilot group because they can complain the loudest if their departments are impacted by an unsuccessful rollout. “By getting their buy in and seeing that their key applications are performing acceptably, you will have a better picture of what the real ultimate deployment will look like and can plan better for it,” says Leitz.

Finally, Leitz suggests carefully evaluating the impact of application virtualization on your SLAs. “Having a new employee up and running should go from a couple days to hours or minutes,” says Leitz. “You can also move employees faster because their access point is irrelevant. And although version upgrades will take less time to deploy, be sure to lengthen time for brand new application deployments to allow for more upfront testing.”

Quoting from the original article, here.

Published Wednesday, June 14, 2006 6:10 PM by David Marshall
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