The 3 Factors That Decide Virtualization’s Fate in Your Enterprise

Because companies generally begin their use of server virtualization at a tactical level, there is often a complex hurdle in expanding the use of virtualization. Analysts predict that virtualization will support upwards of half of server workloads in just a few years. Yet we are already seeing gaps between an enterprise’s expectations and their ability to aggressively adopt virtualization without stumbling in some way.

These gaps can involve issues around people, process and technology, and often all three in some combination. Process refinement, proper methodological involvement, and swift problem management often provide proven risk reduction and provide surefire ways of avoiding pitfalls as virtualization use moves to higher scale.

The goal becomes one of a lifecycle orchestration and governed management approach to virtualization efforts so that the business outcomes, as well as the desired IT efficiencies, are accomplished.

Areas that typically need to be part of any strategic virtualization drive include sufficient education, skilled acquisition and training. Outsourcing, managed mixed sourcing, and consulting around implementation and operational management are also essential. Then there are the usual needs around hardware, platforms and system as well as software, testing and integration.

So, we’re here with a panel of HP executives to examine in-depth the challenges of large-scale successful virtualization adoption. We’ll look at how a supplier like HP can help fill the gaps that can hinder virtualization payoffs.

Please join me in welcoming our panel: Tom Clement, worldwide portfolio manager in HP Education Services; Bob Meyer, virtualization solutions lead with HP Enterprise Business; Dionne Morgan, worldwide marketing manager at HP Technology Services; Ortega Pittman, worldwide product marketing, HP Enterprise Services; and Ryan Reed, worldwide marketing manager at HP Enterprise Business. The discussion is moderated by BriefingsDirect’s Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast (33:16 minutes).

Here are some excepts:

Bob Meyer: The downturn has really forced anybody who is on the front to go headlong into virtualization. Today, we are technically ahead of where we were a year or two ago with the virtualization experience.

Everybody has significant amounts of virtualization in the production environment. They’ve been able to get a handle on what it can do to see what the real results and tangible benefits are. They can see, especially on the capital expenditure side, what it could do for the budgets and what benefits it can deliver.

Now, looking forward, people realize the benefits, and they are not looking in it just as an endpoint. They’re looking down the road and saying, “Okay, this technology is foundational for cloud computing and some other things.” Rather than slowing down, we’ll see those workloads increase.

They went from just single percentage points a year and a half ago to 12 to 15 percent now. Within two years, people are saying it should be about 50 percent. The technology has matured. People have a lot of experience with it. They like what they see in results, and, rather than slow down, it’s bringing efficiency to things like the new services model.

Dionne Morgan: Many people have probably heard the term “virtual machine sprawl” or “VM sprawl,” and that’s one of the risks. Part of the reason VM sprawl occurs is because there are no clear, defined processes in place to keep the virtualized environment under control.

Virtualization makes it so easy to deploy a new virtual machine or a new server that if you don’t have the proper processes in place, you could have more and more of the these virtual machines being deployed and you lose control. You lose track of them.

That’s why it’s very important for our clients to think about … how they’re going to continue to manage virtualization on an on-going basis, so they keep it under control.

Ortega Pittman: Many times small, medium and large organizations have the virtualization needs, but might not have the skills on hand.

The skill demand and the instant ability to get started is something that we take a lot of pride in, and in the global track record of doing that very well is something that HP Enterprise Services can bring from an outsourcing perspective. That’s where HP Enterprise Services comes to add value with meeting customers’ needs around skills.

Tom Clement: Our 30-plus years of experience in providing customer training has shown, time and time again, that technology investments by themselves don’t ensure success.

The business results that clients want in virtualization won’t be achieved until those three elements you just mentioned — technology, process and people — are all addressed and aligned.

That’s really where training comes in. Increasing the technical skills of our customers’ people is often one of the most effective ways for them to grow, increase their productivity and boost the success rates of their virtualization initiatives.

In fact, an interesting study just last year from IDC found that 60 percent of the factors leading to the general success in the IT function are attributed to the skills of people involved. Our education team can help address both the people and process parts of the equation.

Ryan Reed: We see a shift in the way that IT organizations have considered what they think would be strategic to their end business function. A lot of that is driven through the analysis that goes into planning for a virtual server environment.

When doing something like a virtual server environment, the IT organizations have to take a step back and analyze whether or not this is something that they’ve got the core competency to support. Often times, they come to the conclusion that they don’t have the right set of skills, resources or locations to support those virtual servers in terms of their data-center location, as well as where those resources are sitting.

So during the planning of virtual server environments, IT organizations will choose to outsource the planning, the implementation, and the ongoing management of that IT infrastructure to companies like HP.

It’s definitely a good opportunity for IT organizations to take a step back and look at how they want to have that IT infrastructure managed, and often times outsourcing is a part of that conversation.

Bob Meyer: One thing virtualization does very nicely is blur the connections between the various pieces of infrastructure, and the technology has developed quite a bit to allow that to ebb and flow with the business needs.

And you’re right. The other side of that is getting the people to actually work and plan together. We always talk about virtualization as not an end-point. It’s an enabler of technology to get you there.

If you put what we’re talking about in context, the next thing that people want to go to is maybe build a private-cloud service delivery model. Those types of things will depend on that cooperation. It’s not just virtualization that that’s causing but it’s really the newest service delivery models. Where people are heading with their services absolutely requires management and a look at new processes as well.

Pittman: We’d like to work with our customers to understand that it’s a starting point to consolidate, but there is a lot more in the broader ecosystem consider, as they think about optimizing their IT environment.

One of HP’s philosophies is the whole concept of converged infrastructure. That’s thinking about the infrastructure more holistically and addressing the applications, as you said, as well as your server environments and not doing one off, but looking more holistically to get the full benefit.

Moving forward, that’s something that we certainly could help customers do from an outsourcing standpoint in enabling all of the parts, so there aren’t gaps that cause bigger problems than the one hiccup that started the whole notion of virtualization in the beginning.

Morgan: We think about this in terms of their life cycle. We like to start with a strategy discussion, where we have consultants sit down with the client to better understand what they’re trying to accomplish from a business objective perspective. We want to make sure that the customers are thinking about this first from the business perspective. What are their goals? What are they trying to accomplish? And how can virtualization help them accomplish those goals?

Then, we also can help them with their actual return on investment (ROI) analysis and we have ROI tools that we can use to help them develop that analysis. We have experts to help them with the business justification. We try to take it from a business approach first and then design the right virtualization solution to help them accomplish those goals.

Pittman: HP Enterprise Services worked with the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), which is the world’s largest private network, serving and supporting sailors, marines, and civilians in more than 620 locations worldwide.

They were experiencing business challenges in productivity and innovation and in the security areas. Our approach was to consolidate 2,700 physical servers down to 300, reducing outage minutes by almost half. This decreased NMCI’s IT footprint by almost 40 percent and cut carbon emissions by almost 7,000 tons.

Virtualizing the servers in this environment enabled them to eliminate carbon emissions equivalent to taking 3,600 cars off the road for one year. So, there were tremendous improvements in that area. We minimized their downtime and controlled cost. We accelerated transfer times, transparency and optimal performance.

All of this was done through the outsourcing virtualization support of HP Enterprise Services, and we’re really proud that that had a huge impact. They were recognized for an award, as a result of this virtualization improvement, which was pretty outstanding. We talked a little earlier about the broader benefits that customers can expect, the services that help make all of this happen.

In our full portfolio within the IT organization of HP, that would be server management services, data center modernization, network application services, storage services, Web hosting services, and network management services. All combined, they made this happen successfully. We’re really proud of that, and that’s an example of the very large-scale impact that’s reaping a lot of benefit.

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsored this podcast.

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