March 04, 2008, 2:15 PM — With server virtualization being all the rage, it can be very tempting to jump
into it with a "build it and they will come" mentality. This could
be risky, as recent surveys have indicated that a sizeable number of adopters
aren't able determine if their projects were successful. We shouldn't forget
that a virtualization project is no different than any other large scale IT
undertaking: it takes careful planning, clearly defined objectives, and reliable
execution in order to realize the benefits. Here are a few items to help avoid
some common pitfalls:
1. Quantify projected cost savings with straightforward, easy-to-quantify metrics.
You can't determine project success without a yardstick, but stick to hard dollar
savings and avoid soft, fluffy or complex TCO/ROI calculations.
2. Prepare to virtualize a substantial number of servers. Realizing the value
depends, to some degree, on scale. Develop a formalized target server list and
ensure that resources and commitments are in place to virtualize them.
3. Ensure application owner buy-in. Application owners don't like to feel like
guinea pigs and may raise concerns over potential service impact. Have solid
resource utilization metrics in place and ready answers for common concerns
(e.g., performance, availability). Strong executive sponsorship will also help.
And, of course, always have a back-out plan.
4. Create a plan for ongoing operational process integration. This is where
much of the "heavy lifting" comes. Processes for monitoring and managing
virtual machines must be integrated into existing workflows, and it will be
necessary to enhance standard procedures and possibly acquire additional tools
to better support virtualization.
5. Re-evaluate capacity planning and resource requirements. Virtualization
makes provisioning easy -- sometimes too easy -- and it's possible to overrun
server and storage capacity sooner than expected.
6. Enlist the right cross-functional resources in the project process. This
is not just a server consolidation, it's a major infrastructure change and the
other segments of the infrastructure supply chain, including storage and networking,
need to fully participate.
Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer at GlassHouse Technologies Inc.,
a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.