Virtualization as a strategy, not a project
“What many companies don’t realize is that virtualization often comes at the expense of extra storage, additional CPUs, more software and greater management complexity,” explains Jim Ganthier, Director of Enterprise Server and Storage Blades Marketing for HP. “They take a step forward, only to take two steps back. And it’s because they are thinking small.”
The problem, suggests John Bennett, Director of Data Center Transformation Solutions for HP, is that most organizations still see virtualization as an IT aid and not a business aid.
“Many still see virtualization as a way to save some floor space or improve utilization percentages,” says Bennett. “IT teams need to reconsider virtualization and what it can offer. More than a pure consolidation technique, it can now be used to advance business service delivery. But it has to be a fundamental component of the overall IT strategy and not a pet project.”
“EMA has for some time recommended enterprises view virtualization as a strategy, not a project,” the EMA report states. “Virtualization should be about the whole business, not just about IT, and about a range of long-term benefits, not just (or even) short-term savings. For example, once a server consolidation project is complete, the enterprise is left with a half-empty data center and a sunk cost in virtualization technologies and skills, and probably a lot of leftover dormant servers—not necessarily the best possible outcome. Enterprises need to consider up front how to leverage that investment to make the entire business better for the long run, not just how to finish a shortsighted, albeit highly valuable, server consolidation project.”
Taking virtualization from tactical to strategic breeds success, claims EMA: “A truly strategic approach to virtualization makes it far more likely to be a success. More drivers can be satisfied with a strategic deployment, more outcomes can be achieved with broader implementation, and if individual barriers prevent achievement in one area, success is still possible in others. Looking at virtualization as a strategy—with a wide range of use cases and outcomes—will end up with a great deal of payback, financially and otherwise.”
Blurring virtual and physical lines
But many organizations get trapped with inefficient IT operations. Forced to manage virtual and physical environments separately, they take on extra, cumbersome layers of software.
EMA’s research reveals that “only 19 percent of enterprises have management tools that can manage all of the virtualization platforms in use in these enterprises; only 22 percent can manage all of the virtualization technologies; and only 26 percent can manage all of the virtualization vendors. Virtualization management tools do not tend to integrate with the rest of the IT management stack, or align IT services with business objectives.”
Until now. HP has announced new software, hardware and services that allow companies to look at virtualization in business terms. These solutions carry virtualization throughout the data center and into the realm of business services. They blur the lines between physical and virtual, enabling a single approach and management strategy for the entire infrastructure.
“IT professionals shouldn’t have to worry about their physical environments and their virtual environments and a bunch of incongruent tools to manage them all,” says Bennett. “Instead, they should be focusing on the business value their systems and services, both virtual and physical, are delivering. From that viewpoint, they can effectively maximize the business impact of virtualization.”
HP’s virtualization portfolio addresses hardware systems optimized for virtual environments and automated management tools that integrate physical and virtual resources. The solutions are complemented by strategy, planning, design and implementation services.
“For the first time, virtual and physical resources can be managed holistically,” says Ganthier. “We facilitate this by looking first at applications and business services, and working virtualization into the strategic framework already established with good IT service management and Business Service Automation practices. We then fit virtualization into the existing policies and procedures, ensuring consistency of operations for virtual and physical resources alike, for all applications and business services.
“We do this in practical terms,” Ganthier continues, “with optimized hardware, consistent software and best practice processes for managing heterogeneous virtual and physical infrastructure within a business service automation framework. This starts with a business and strategic view of virtualization, not an IT-centric view.”
“To be perfectly honest, virtualization doesn’t matter,” says Bennett, “because it is not the goal. The goal is to deliver optimized business services and outcomes in the most efficient way possible. If virtualization helps a company get there—and we know it can—all the better.”
“As ever, enterprises must direct their energies at a three-pronged approach, including not just technology, but also people and process,” EMA recommends. “The sooner they are able to do so, the sooner they can overcome the difficulties of recent virtualization and management trends and position themselves to achieve success.”
But organizations must rethink IT strategy and operations, casting off preconceived notions about infrastructure barriers.
In doing so, they can take IT’s support of the business—with the aid of virtualization—to new heights.
* “Virtualization and Management: Trends, Forecasts, and Recommendations,” Enterprise Management Associates, April 2008.