Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The business reason for virtualization

The Infrastructure Framework and why the business should care.

This post will focus on the business reason for virtualization.  There are many technical reasons but these technical discussions only mire the bigger business needs.  Many firms and organizations grew their Information Technology departments out of other departments and/or specific projects.  Organizations that are funded by project typically have been forced to bind their Information Technology to the project office. These would become the seeds of the many silos we in the Information Technology industry have been forced to deal with.  But what does an organization do to address this unrelenting reality.  The first is to identify it exists and then adapt your future rollouts to support a different operational model.

The organization is entrusted to deliver the best programs and services they are capable of.  Information Communication Technology can be seen as either the cost center or the opportunity enabler.  This decision is left to the organizational leadership.

If the leadership chooses a “Cost Center” approach then there is little one can do to break free of the silos.  For the initial apparent high costs of Information Technology are never a true reflection of the value they can bring.   The best defense for this is asking your accounting group to stop using a spreadsheet for the cost of licensing is too high.  Paper and pencil is cheaper.  We would not ask this of a mature accounting group.  Yet, every day we are asking the same of our technology groups.  They are being asked to deliver more with less and no acknowledgement that Information Technology is a mature and valuable group.

If the leadership decides that Information Technology is in fact an opportunity enabler then the organization has to understand how that Information Technology group can bring the best value.

The leadership needs to follow the path of many successful organizations.   The first step is to clearly articulate the organizational goals and problems from a holistic approach and NOT just from a departmental (silo) approach.  This is the toughest step.  The leadership must elevate the Information Technology group to the decision table. This elevation is not to defer the decision to the Information Technology group but rather the contrary.  By bringing the Information Technology group to the table they become trusted advisors and can bring insight in your organizational solution definitions.  It can be that easy.

But how does Information Technology bring value to the organization from within their domain.  That is done by pragmatic deployment of solid networks that interconnect the departments heterogeneously.  Next they deploy a technology platform that is solid, stable, robust and flexible.  Once these underpinnings are in place the organization is now open to any and all open standards based applications.  These applications can be boxed, custom built or a combination of both.  The organization should be focused on solutions (why) and not the vendor (how). 

What do you do with all your legacy issues?  In the past this was the major stumbling block for breaking free.  The issue of obsolete hardware, fractured networks and lack of focus that is evident in the most organizations’ Information Technology Strategy needs analysis is not unique.  These challenges are being faced by many organizations.   The good news is that there is a way out of the issues without having to abandon those functions that are working.  The answer is in server virtualization and network consolidation.

The path for which you may want to consider is one of bringing all the networks to a solid and safe central place.   By leveraging equipment today that has capital costs but very little monthly maintenance costs and NO monthly operational costs the organization can grow as needed without having to find new sources of funding.  The second and most important piece is server consolidation.  Many organizations have been forced by vendor licensing and performance models to deploy many servers to achieve small incremental advances.  This strategy helped the vendors and only added to the complexity of support.  The two major players of server virtualization of VMware and XenCitrix have solved this problem.  The current conservative rate of server consolidation is 10 to 1.  That means 100 servers can consolidate into 10 physical boxes.

The advantages to Server consolidation are many but I will list a few.

  •          Reduced footprint
  •          Ease of management
  •          Exploit entire computing power (memory, CPU and disk)
  •          Hardware is now a commodity
  •          Can have as many logical servers as hardware will support.  This is supportive, especially, of Microsoft’s one server per role model.
  •          Backup and recovery is now simplified
  •          Ongoing hardware costs are dramatically reduced
  •          Ease of testing new versions of software
  •          Single place for all storage
  •          Takes less room
  •          Grow as needed
  •          Grow quickly
  •          Grow simply
  •          Allows for departmental independence without having to have physical independence
  •          Share costing model

·         Information Technology becomes a working service department.  Can charge out time and resources to other groups to be included in funding envelopes.

·         Considered “insourcing”.  The Information Technology group becomes the “go to” group and trusted advisor to all because they are spending their time and efforts delivering value and not fighting fires.

There are other factors as well but the basic approach is to consolidate and then leverage. This solid network with a server consolidation platform gives any organization the platform and foundation to implement any solution.  This is called the infrastructure framework.

The solution framework now becomes an exercise in connecting people with content and applications instead of the hardware and networking nightmare it has been known to be.

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