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Get The Most Out Of Your Virtualization Implementations

Build A Business Case

Virtualization is no different than any other technology initiative: IT needs executive support—and funding—before the first piece of hardware is touched. This is especially critical given the intangible nature of virtualization initiatives. "A business case will help gain support for the initiative," says a virtualization consultant. "It will force the IT department to consider all of its elements to justify its time and expense. They should be able to outline the key benefits, its key efficiency improvements, and its hard costs."

Focus On Tertiary Savings

While simplified infrastructure can save major help and support costs and even reduce implementation timelines from months and weeks to hours and minutes, the less obvious opportunities can often be the strongest selling points for non-technical C-level sponsors. "Find out what you're spending on energy, not only for server power but server cooling," says an expert. Virtualization in this area is a tremendous savings. Virtualizing storage infrastructure can also drive potentially huge future savings by replacing conventional "islands of storage" with SANs or other shared architecture. "Calculate your current spending on hardware attrition and employ a prominent ROI calculator" is the advice.

Study Your Software Vendors

When you shift from physical to virtual infrastructure, the licensing rules shift, as well. Costs can fluctuate uncontrollably if IT doesn't invest enough time in due diligence. "Before making any decisions about which servers to virtualize, it's important to understand each software vendor's support policies," says a solutions manager for virtualization. Is the software supported to run in a virtual machine? Is it supported to run on specific platforms? It's also critical to determine each software vendor's licensing policies. Only after these questions have been answered can IT begin to narrow down specific choices for virtualization tools and implementation strategies. IT can't afford to ignore virtualization's impact on hardware, software licensing, and maintenance and support costs. IT leaders must ask a lot of questions, including what's required, how many, and how much it'll cost. IT needs to "outline the real costs to the organization". Are the upgrades needed? Which products and services will lower costs and improve productivity? How much is needed to run them? Can those costs be cut further? What benefits will be realized? The top benefits could include greater employee productivity, improved access to information, and more robust data security.

Identify Potential Bottlenecks

Virtualization's promise of increased performance doesn't come without certain costs. Additional abstraction layers can complicate storage performance. Ensuring that your virtual platform is operating at peak performance requires new measures that IT needs to get educated about. Resource bottlenecks are emergent in virtualized environments where proper measures aren't taken. Beyond initial implementation, longer term planning should focus on optimizing what's already in place.

Go Beyond The Hardware

Virtualization involves far more than simply server and storage infrastructure. The hardware is only the beginning. Establishing a shared storage infrastructure and virtualizing introduces the opportunity to achieve previously unheard-of service levels. A massive boon of virtualizing is the ability to evolve away from hardware spending and instead invest in your existing architecture. Virtualization is only limited by dreamt-up use cases: Once your servers and workstations are virtualized, consider application virtualization.

Back Up Your Backup Environment

It's all too easy to leave backup and disaster recovery plans behind when planning a virtualization initiative. Revisiting backup/restore architecture while virtualizing can be a cost-effective—and risk-reducing—step. Many vendors offer enhanced backup products for virtual infrastructure, and some price by socket or host, reducing costs considerably. If your business has a long-term maintenance contract, consider reviewing it before changing your backup architecture.