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Wed 22 Jul 2009 12:00 PM

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Are we virtually there yet?

The benefits of virtualisation are clear and on the large part undeniable, says Julian Pletts.

Are we virtually there yet?

The benefits of virtualisation are clear and on the large part undeniable. It can save cold hard cash because every golden image is one server investment saved.

Similar to a middle-aged person taking up yoga, it can rapidly increase flexibility in many ways, for instance the ability to migrate a virtualised environment from one server farm to another without too much fuss. If managed properly it can also slash cooling and power outlay, with application and resources accurately apportioned as necessary.

These are all benefits IT managers are well aware of. And so they should be, as it has been drummed into them by vendors and the media – guilty as charged — for years now. But despite this hammering, has the virtualisation nail really hit home here? Well to be honest, the answer is no, virtualisation doesn’t yet have the foothold here that vendors would want it to, and indeed, like you to think it has.

I have talked to IT managers from varying sized organisations over the past week and one of the questions I have been asking is how much virtualisation hype has taken on a life of its own in the Middle East. The answer to that one from most is that talk has outstripped adoption. It is not that they do not value virtualisation and the benefits it could bring. It is just they see it as not yet essential.

One particularly vociferous end-user said that they will not look to the technology until they reach a critical mass of servers and only above this number would it make sense to virtualise. Another pointed out that, for the majority of organisations, there is absolutely no need to rush into virtualising every corner of their network and that a concerted period of consolidation must be undertaken before even considering it.

We may be experiencing the woes of a financial crisis, with ever tightening budgetary constraints, but end-users must think long and hard about heading for VR and make sure that they are fully aware of all the implications. In fact, every spokesperson I have talked to on the subject emphatically made the point that when it comes to lifting your infrastructure into the virtual era, planning is just as important as, if not more paramount than implementation.

With the inherent flexibility of a virtualised layer, also come the dangers and difficulties associated with a more complex system of management. Consolidation will have to be carried out with virtualisation in mind, so the planning and envisaging of challenges your virtual environment is going to be called upon to answer as your organisation evolves, is a huge endeavour, but one that would doom a virtualisation solution to failure if it is not done thoroughly.

There is also the question about whether there are enough skilled resources around virtualisation at ground level, among the region’s IT staff, to back up investment in virtual environments. And indeed solid virtualisation resources may still be hard to come by in this region, because the cautious adoption of virtualisation means there is not yet a backlog of hands-on experience in lifecycle implementations.

Unfortunately it is also, in many cases, not possible anymore to pay the high salaries that such experienced employees will demand. And as one CIO put it, once you invest in training staff on such things you may face the prospect of them being poached by others.

So the conclusion that many a CIO is coming to is that, in going into virtualisation, they have to rely on vendors and the services and managed services that they provide in the region. This however, can be a sticking point for many an IT manager, because after they have selected their desired VR tools, they might find that the support of that particular vendor is rather lacking in this region and that the majority of services will go through the channel partners.

Integrators in the region are, of course, capable of carrying out virtualisation implementations but it seems that IT managers are sceptical if the vendors are not heavily involved or available to underline the work of the partner.

There are many more considerations when it comes to making that first foray into the VR world than it at first appears. Suffice to say, if the level of virtualised servers is to reach the level that vendors would hope in this region, then their commitment to localised support, along with a greater willingness to invest time and money in helping end-users complete due diligence stages and full consolidation, has to increase.

Furthermore end-users must carefully dissect their motivations for making the VR move because it may well be a fool’s errand if it is carried out solely for financial purposes, and not IT gains. It may save money but these gains will not come as readily as hoped as investment in staff training, change management and in-depth integration mount up.

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Vinod 11 years ago

Hi! Jeremy , I read your comment post on Vistualization and would be glad to share more information as i am a VMware certified person and have been in involved in consolidation projects ,you could reach me on 055-4549482

Concerned Reader 11 years ago

As an IT professional actively selling virtualization solutions across the MENA region, I would have to disagree with your main premise here. Virtualization has been increasingly adopted across our region to help CIOs cut costs and increase their flexibility. There is hardly a bank, telco, or government institutation that doesn't have at least some of its servers virtualized!