There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning and undertaking a virtualization deployment. Here, we cite five best practices compiled by Tom Bittman, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, and add our perspective, drawn from interviews with leading IT executives, to compile this primer for CIOs considering virtualization:Start small. Take heed of Murphy's Law of IT: Each component will inevitably be more complicated and take more time than expected.
Ask yourself: Which assets make the most sense to virtualize first? How do I identify the lowest-hanging fruit? Which virtualization products best suit my organizational needs?
Think Big. Have a plan that accounts for the long-term implications of your virtualization efforts, including impact on your services. Make sure you're comfortable with the management tools for your virtual environment, as these will be invaluable in ensuring that you get the most return out of your investments over the long haul.
Ask yourself: Why are we undertaking this project? How will virtualization change the productivity and profitability of our business units? Do I have an effective process in place for dealing with the failure of a virtual server? Will I be able to successfully accommodate spikes in traffic without scrambling to install new hardware or software?
Require rapid ROI. If a virtualization deployment can't pay for itself in six months, you may want to wait. If you're not already timing your virtualization efforts to coincide with server refresh cycles, you probably should.
Ask yourself: How do I identify projects with high potential for short-term gains so that I can build trust with my CFO for future deployments? How do I determine the realistic anticipated costs of a project?
Consider the broad benefits of virtualization. Server consolidation is an obvious win, but virtualization can boost application performance, improve disaster recovery and free up IT resources to work on growth-related projects. Figure out whether those benefits are worth the investment.
Ask yourself: Where can I use virtualization to boost productivity and agility, and enable my staff to support more applications and data processing? Where should I consolidate, and where should I accelerate? Where can I enable agility and flexibility?
Know your applications. Every application will react differently to virtualization. You don't want to dive in, only to discover that the software vendor wants you to pay more to continue receiving support for a virtualized application. Cost minimization is key.
Ask yourself: Which apps can be consolidated? Which have the most pressing needs related to time, speed and money? Which are more optional? What apps are mission-critical?