CIOs Realize That Virtualization Is Not A Magic Cure

 CIOs have had a great deal of success with virtualization, but…
CIOs have had a great deal of success with virtualization, but…

Image Credit: Tsahi Levent-Levi

We’ve all heard the stories about IT shops with 100’s if not 1000’s of servers that are all being utilized at the 2% level. Shucks, we heard about this all the back in 2008 and that’s when the server virtualization vendors started showing up and knocking on our doors to remind us about the importance of information technology. Virtualization turned out to be a magic cure, but is it still the cure that the person with the CIO job needs today?

The Magic Of Virtualization

When we discovered just how inefficiently our company was using its servers, all CIOs started looking for a solution. What we found was that the virtualization technology that was just starting to become available at the time seemed to be a magic cure for our problems. What the virtualization did was to allow CIOs to combine applications that had been using just a small amount of the capacity of the server that they had been running on onto a single server.

The end result of all of these combinations was that the IT department had to support far fewer servers and the end users never noticed a difference. The ability to reduce the number of servers that the IT department was using turned out to be a critical need for most IT departments. Even if you are able to rack mount your servers, every business is always going to need more and more servers over time. Virtualization can slow the process down, but it is not going to stop it and so sever growth will still occur even in IT shops that are extensively using virtualization.

One of the biggest challenges that the person in the CIO position will eventually face is when the data center space has all been used up. When this happens, more space will have to be found. There are two ways of doing this: renting additional space (if it is available) or building your own (very expensive).The grand promise of virtualization was that the need to obtain additional data center space could now be put off for a longer time because fewer servers would be required. For a long time this promise was fulfilled. However, problems with virtualization started to show up.

Solving The Problems Caused By Virtualization

It turns out that virtualization has its limits. What a number of different firms discovered was that because of the power of virtualization to reduce the number of servers that the company needed to use, they went just a little bit crazy. What had happened is that the IT team had found applications running on different servers and then had just gone ahead and virtualized them and placed them on a single server.

What was discovered later on was that this was a poor decision. The reason that it was not working out was because they had combined environments that did not logically match. When this was discovered, the IT departments had to restart and create a more defined methodology for how they wanted to apply virtualization. The candidate applications for virtualization had to be selected more carefully.

As more and more firms are now considering moving their applications into the cloud, the work that they’ve done on virtualization is becoming more and more important. What they are realizing is that they are going to need to have a very defined selection process for what applications will be moved into the cloud. When applications were virtualized, many of them “broke”. The same thing can happen as applications are moved into the cloud. FedEx has taken the approach that any application that will be moved into their cloud must first be rewritten in order to optimize it for the new highly virtualized environment.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are in charge of managing their company’s IT infrastructure. Part of this task has to do with trying to stay on top of how many servers the company is currently using. It was only a few years ago that studies started to come out that said that most of us were woefully underutilizing the servers that we had. Clearly CIOs had a problem on their hands.

It turns out that the solution to this problem was something called virtualization. We used fancy software to allow multiple applications (and operating systems) to all share the same physical server. This allowed CIOs to reduce the number of servers that they needed and slow the relentless growth of the IT infrastructure. However, virtualization of applications can cause problems and so the lessons learned will need to be applied to companies that are moving into the cloud.

The good news is that CIOs now have a lot of experience with how to take multiple applications and get them to play nice with each other as they share the same operating environment. However, we’re going to have to make sure that we learn from our past experiences in order to make sure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to determine if two applications would be compatible in a shared virtual environment?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Quick question for you: if I asked someone that you know if you were a credible person, what would they tell me? I think that both you and I hope that they would tell me that “yes” you are a credible person. However, if I asked them the same thing about your IT department, what would they say then?

How IT Departments Have Lost Credibility

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