In this second of a two part series, Alex Watson-Jackson points out how a far-sighted virtualisation strategy can push the benefits well beyond consolidation and cost saving, to enable a brave new world in which IT departments and CIOs can take the lead in delivering powerful longer term strategic and competitive value.
As I pointed out in part 1 , virtualisation is about a lot more than consolidation these days. No matter how welcome a consolidated and therefore cost efficient IT environment may be, it is now only a starting point.
To quote my first post in this series, it is: “...enabling IT pros to implement dynamic data centre environments consisting of pools of high-performing computing resources that can be centrally managed, readily automated and efficiently maintained - and with an upgrade path that is evolutionary instead of disruptive.”
To expand on that slightly, virtualisation holds the key to delivering a truly converged infrastructure that is more efficient, more able to adapt to changing business requirements and easier to maintain and support.
Crucially for CIOs, it also enables IT departments to escape their traditional cost centre roles, and instead operate as a service centre that provides computing power as a utility – and it will be increasingly possibly to align IT assets, and costs, with revenue sources.
However, in this broad context, virtualisation is a vital enabler, not a strategy in its own right – and if it is to underpin this wider value, it must be built effectively from the ground up. Of course, planning an effective virtualisation programme is an involved and multi-faceted task – but getting it right means incorporating these seven best practices:
- Think differently. Virtualisation is more than just a compelling technology that allows IT pros to do the same things better, faster and cheaper. Getting the most from virtualisation requires CIOs and IT managers to think in fundamentally new and different ways.
- Re-evaluate routinely. A successful virtualisation strategy needs to be based on a critical assessment of where the company is and where it wants to go. Once the virtualisation of an IT environment is underway, those points become very dynamic. New tools and new capabilities emerge routinely.
- Virtualize strategically. Too many organizations virtualise applications that would be better decommissioned. Just because something can be virtualised doesn’t mean it should be virtualised. Virtualising a problem does not make it go away.
- Change carefully. Change management procedures need to be refined and adhered to. “Rack ’em, stack ’em and forget ’em” can happen very fast in the virtualised environment.
- Allocate costs. Accurate cost accounting of both hard and soft costs needs to be clearly articulated to ensure the true cost of conducting business is understood. Identifying costs makes it possible for IT to charge business units for the resources they consume, or to at least show the CFO the role IT plays in bringing in revenue.
- Involve key stakeholders. A successful virtualisation campaign needs to involve more than just the IT department. It needs executive support for the policy and procedural changes it will require. Business leaders need to see how virtualisation serves their goals. The finance people have to understand the value that virtualisation represents to the bottom line.
- Monitor and manage. Monitoring and management of virtualised IT environments require a broad range of sophisticated systems management tools, ITIL-based best practices, and a range of skills that literally spans all aspects of the IT infrastructure. If these are not core competencies, then outsource them to a trusted partner.
In summary, yes you need virtualisation today to keep up - but tomorrow, winning will be about using virtualisation better than the competition
Put another way, that means delivering the kind of virtualised environment today that opens up a brave new world of possibilities tomorrow.