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5 virtualization management tips to live by

Kevin Fogarty, CIO | April 28, 2011
Neither cloud computing nor virtual servers were intended as agents that would change traditional IT organizations, says Rachel Dines, a researcher at Forrester Research who specializes in IT infrastructure and management. But IT organization and management issues are turning out to be nearly as important as the technology itself to making large-scale virtual-server migrations effective.

"You can get efficiencies that weren't accessible before organizing by function," Wolf says.

Administratively that could shatter the relationship between workers and managers in the same facility, and reassign them all along functional lines. A small number would remain tied to the physical plant and physical servers, but most would be available to be reassigned to the highest-need functional areas.

"Making that work can be a real challenge," for traditional IT organizations, however, Wolf says.

2. Flatten the hierarchy, widen the job descriptions

The same dynamic that assigns IT workers to the functions that need them most eliminates the need for several layers of management between the CIO and first-level managers, Dines says.

Regional managers whose role is to coordinate activity within a geographic area could be reassigned to more innovative project-development work or more sophisticated capacity planning and operations management, Dines says.

"In the virtual world you don't have the equation where you add another box when you need capacity. Adding capacity is easy, you just spin off another VM," she says. "Real capacity planning in a virtual environment means planning for the whole data center, not just one set of applications or data center. It's a much different set of skills than it used to be."

It's also so critical to the success of both the virtualization project and overall IT performance that it is becoming a separate department or set of job descriptions for people who can take into account not only the capacity of computing hardware, but also anticipate needs of business units.

"Covering spikes is a pretty basic form of planning; this is more approaching capacity as an optimization process," Dines says.

3. Respond like a service, not a utility

IT's traditional role has been more support than enhancement, according to Rob Smoot, director of product marketing for VMware's vCenter management products.

As virtualization expands and business-unit managers get more used to the idea they can order up high-level IT services from external cloud providers "and pay for them with a credit card, not ask IT for budget to do it," their relationship with IT changes as well, Smoot says.

"Instead of just dealing with one application for a business unit, IT is responding more to a wider range of business needs. As that happens IT has to become more of a service that supports the business and allows users in the business unit to do more self service, as they become more comfortable with app stores and provisioning their own servers," Smoot says.


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