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Getting Real With Virtualization

Posted 03-15-2013 Print

As virtualization becomes more complex and more important for your business, it’s important to remember some of the basic principles for its success.

Remember the compelling financial argument for virtualization? It seems like a rock-solid case. It was great to reduce some of the physical complexity, but when we add layers of abstraction we create additional complexity. This complexity can be considered even worse, though, as the sprawl is controlled by a few keyboard strokes rather than the heavy lifting necessary in the physical world. When we consider the process of finding the root cause of a problem in a heavily virtualized environment, we must traverse the layers and decipher what is real and what is not before determining if we have a software or hardware problem. Let’s remember that what looks like hardware is probably just a ghost image these days.

So virtualization, which was once a solution that offered simple capacity, flexibility and cost-reduction benefits, now needs more serious consideration of impact and risk across the pool of resources used by the enterprise. The challenge now shifts into policy and environment management to protect the IT business assets. Just as we were skeptical of migrating our business-critical environments to a virtual world a few years ago, we are now skeptical of deploying the software that becomes the manager to control our IT environment. Just imagine the situation if it breaks. Will you have any insight into your IT ecosystem? Will you have the skills and processes to resume operations? Do these considerations outweigh the benefits of the virtual stack? Or do we need to run the numbers, quantifying our risk and probability of failure to evaluate these investments and approaches?

Ensuring Virtualization’s Success

With the ever-increasing complexity of IT technology, let’s take a simple, back-to-basics approach by stating some of the principles for success:

·        Virtualization needs economies of scale. Create standards and stick to them. Standardize, starting from the bottom of the stack upward when possible. The power of integration is predictability.

·        Businesses need consistency. Identify your business policies, form agreements and align a set of architecture and patterns that meet the business needs. Most importantly, start quantifying risk in monetary terms, determine your company’s tolerance for risk and socialize it.

·        Know your capacity in terms of relevant units of work to your business, but more importantly understand the trends and the forecasts of each business unit. This is Economics 101: Align the real-world demands with the virtual supply.

·        You are as strong as your weakest link. Keep identifying it, whether it is physical or virtual, as it shifts.

·        At some point you’ll leave a legacy. Without a doubt, that legacy will include virtualization technologies. Take control of the virtualization strategy, and don’t be the scapegoat for your IT successor to blame for a piecemeal deployment.

To the general user of IT services, virtualized solutions offer a tremendous ability for self-empowered, easy to use and dynamic capabilities. We know that this is somewhat of a façade, and we work diligently behind the scenes to create that experience with virtualization products. As we increase our dependency on these solutions, let’s keep our awareness of the environment real by remembering our basic principles.

About the Author

Andy Lewis is the CIO at Kovarus, where he is responsible for providing thought leadership on the enablement of IT-as-a-service transformation strategies. Lewis has more than 20 years of experience with companies such as EMC, Visa, Barclays Bank, Lloyds TSB and Galileo International. He has extensive experience with cloud-based computing, technology strategy and process excellence. Lewis has also co-authored books on storage area networks, and served on many CIO and CTO councils.


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