A recent InformationWeek article highlighted a number of companies who are well on their way to 100% virtualized infrastructures. PACCAR, Pacific Northwest National Lab, Corporate Express, Westcon Group … all of these firms are over 50% virtualized and are shooting for the magic number – 100% — in the near future.
Undoubtedly, there are significant benefits of going all in on virtualization. Namely, virtualization increases hardware efficiency, lowers operating costs and makes managing IT environments significantly simpler than traditional data centers. You’ll notice, however, that these are all benefits that make IT’s life easier. What about the business?
CIOs and CTOs that focus on these benefits alone are missing the big picture, according to Edward Newman, Director of the Cloud and Virtual Data Center Service Line at EMC Consulting. Rather, virtualization should be viewed as a means to an end, that end being IT-as-a-Service or a cloud-based model. This allows IT to more quickly, efficiently and securely respond to the needs of the business and deliver applications and services that drive better business outcomes.
To do this, it’s critical to get the business-side involved from the outset.
“Improving metrics like percent virtualized is going to come as an outcome of your overall journey, but that shouldn’t be the focus,” said Newman in a recent vlog post. “The very successful customers are those that have taken the time to define the services they’re going to offer the business and brought the business into that definition process. They are framing those services in terms of what’s meaningful to the business.”
My colleague Stuart Miniman, who serves as Wikibon lead analyst on all things virtualization and cloud computing, agrees. “While virtualization is an important underpinning for creating service type models such as a private cloud environment, virtualizing for virtualizations sake does not necessarily lead to cloud-like models,” he told me in a recent conversation.
Another sometime overlooked benefit of virtualization is freeing up IT to spend more time responding the users and driving business value and less time maintaining the infrastructure, according to Matt Sampson, IT manager at U.K.-based Ely Community College. Sampson discusses his experience with virtualization in the below BroadcastExchange video (skip ahead to the 3:38 mark to hear Sampson discuss business benefits of virtualization.)
Ultimately, don’t get hung up on metrics, warns Newman. “You could be 100% virtualized and not have solved any business problems.” Instead, proactively engage the business to align virtualization projects to the larger goal of delivering business value.