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Virtualization 2009: Making the Business Case for a Strategic Managed Architecture

What do virtualization executives think about 2009?  A VMBlog.com Series Exclusive.

Contributed By Stephen Elliot, VP of Strategy, CA’s Infrastructure Management and Data Center Automation Business Unit

IT organizations continue to adopt virtualization aggressively, often across multiple IT silos (server, storage, desktop, etc.) to extend its cost advantages. However, recent conversations with CIOs are revealing a key trend that is transcending the cost paradigm, the development of a “virtualization architecture” that delivers business outcomes through defined business metrics.  These metrics often include server to admin and VM (Virtual Machine) to admin ratios, improved Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), business process impact (cash to order, etc.), increased availability, and faster time to market. While cost is still, and likely always will be a key success factor in any technology investment, it’s clear that IT organizations are methodically analyzing the business value of broadly adopted virtualization architecture—moving beyond the silo mentality. This architecture requires new management capabilities that should be integrated into the existing management capabilities.  

Besides clearly defined business metrics, enterprise IT organizations are aggressively investing in the management of the virtualization architecture.  CIOs and virtualization teams and architects have recognized that the potential for on-going cost savings and more important business impact require the use of integrated, best-in-class management solutions and process standardization. Virtualization does not erase any of the management challenges found in physical infrastructure; in fact it often makes finding performance, configuration, and change management more difficult because of the abstraction the architecture provides. But without doubt, the cost and business impact virtualization architecture provides far outweigh the management challenges. IT needs to plan and budget for management investment across IT staff, solutions, and processes. 

IT Staff

There are often two methods for determining who is responsible for the virtualization architecture and its management. The more common IT strategy is one that adds this responsibility onto the respective system, storage, or desktop administrator’s plate. A second, increasingly popular IT strategy is one that creates a “Virtualization Computing Team” whereby this cross-IT silo team owns the architecture, management, and responsibility for its success. While there is no right or wrong answer, it has been quite a long time since there has been a transformational technology (virtualization) that impacts the IT organizational structure. The importance of this impact is that CIOs are now actively creating cross functional teams with management as an underpinning for success, and business outcomes the main focus for virtualization adoption. 

Solutions

Recent conversations with CIOs provide insight to the need for measuring the management requirements for the virtualization architecture. Most IT organizations want both the physical and virtual infrastructures monitored through a single management solution, rather than having separate management solutions with no integrations. Simply put, IT must take this opportunity to manage complexity and incorporate physical and virtual infrastructures into singular management interfaces. There is no need to buy niche solutions as they usually require additional staff, training, and often have limited capabilities and product support. Many niche solutions inhibit business outcomes and perpetuate the silo mentality. There is too much risk and not enough benefit. Many organizations are recognizing the need to manage to the business benefit. A few examples include:

  • The need to secure VM access to track compliance requirements.
  • Growing importance of granular performance analysis to drive faster time to problem identification and resolution
  • The need to execute capacity planning for application workload migrations and hardware deployments
  • The ability to manage configurations and changes across the virtual and physical infrastructures. 
  • The real-time need to allocate resources in a self-service fashion, while meeting the demands of both testing and production teams. 

Management is now a key requirement for the successful use of virtualization; companies that underinvested in management are not fully experiencing virtualization impact on agility, cost savings, and business effectiveness.

Processes

Enterprises have been investing in process standardization for many years.  ITIL, CMM, CoBit, and other Capability Maturity Models have been deployed to standardize processes to reduce costs, drive teamwork, and improve business alignment. Often, process usage is forgotten during the virtualization discussion. Many CIOs should recognize that process standardization must be a key part of the virtualization discussion.  Incorporating processes into the virtualization deployment enables the further payoff of existing process investment. It also empowers IT to be on the same page as it relates to all architecture discussions, minimizing complexity and speeding time to market, problem identification, and resolution.

There is no doubt that 2009 will bring an elevated discussion and adoption of the virtualization architecture as cost pressures mount on CEOs and CIOs.  It simply makes good business sense. However, without the proper management approach, IT leaders take a step back instead of two steps forward. 

Stephen Elliot is the VP of Strategy for CA’s Infrastructure Management and Data Center Automation Business Unit

Published Friday, December 05, 2008 5:48 PM by David Marshall
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