Getting Past 'Virtualization Stall' And To The Cloud

Customers find it easy to get started on the road to virtualization, but often such projects stall before they get ready for a move to the cloud, according to Steve Kaplan, a solution provider and well-known author on virtualization.

Getting past the virtualization stall requires stepping back and looking at the architecture from a completely new point of view, said Kaplan, vice president of data center virtualization at INX, a Houston-based solution provider.

Steve Kaplan Speaking At The LEAP Center Opening

Kaplan, speaking at the opening of opening of Westcon's LEAP Center for hands-on training and customer demonstrations of Cisco's UCS platform, told solution providers that the level of data center virtualization for typical customers varies widely

"I find it more like between 10 (percent) and 50 percent," Kaplan said. "And organizations tend to get stuck at that point."

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The reason for this virtualization stall is VMware's success in getting engineers and others within a company to download its virtualization software free-of-charge to test it, which led to widespread adoption without an overall plan for virtualization, Kaplan said. "VMware was very successful," he said. "But the problem is, organizations got stuck in a tactical mode."

Next: Tactical Thinking And The Problems It Causes

Customers ended up virtualizing whole departments without an overall virtualization plan, but did not scale virtualization to the enterprise, Kaplan said. And, as virtualization catches on in a company, it can lead to a number of problems which are often unnoticed until they become major issues.

These problems include virtual machine sprawl, which happens when administrators can easily build a virtual server, and do so for a variety of tasks, but then don't delete unneeded virtual servers or fail to keep them up-to-date.

Another problem is the I/O bottlenecks which come from using virtual adapters for virtual machines that are not as robust as their physical counterparts, which can quickly lead to performance issues as virtualization is scaled to the enterprise, Kaplan said.

Also, the ease at which virtual machines are provisioned is not matched by the scalability of storage and network resources needed to help those virtual machines run efficiently, he said.

Organizations with virtualization stall tend to look at the problem through a physical infrastructure filter. They are used to looking at things like physical capacity and power requirements, and so it is natural they apply that same filter to their virtual environments, Kaplan said.

Next: Getting Past The Tactical Mode With Strategic Thinking

Another cause of virtualization stall is risk aversion, especially with mission-critical applications like SAP. Kaplan said IT staffs are already over-burdened, and typically do not have the processes or coordination to move such applications to virtualized environments.

Overcoming these issues requires a new way of looking at virtualized environments, Kaplan said.

"We need to turn this situation on its head, and look at the environment from a virtualization point of view, and treat the physical parts as extras," he said.

Focusing on the ROI (return on investment) and financial payback of virtualized environments requires that solution providers move customer focus away from their physical infrastructures, especially as they begin to look at the benefits of cloud computing compared to their existing architectures, Kaplan said.

To help in that transition, Kaplan introduced his roadmap to selling and deploying private clouds that includes a number of technologies which solution providers need to adopt in order to get customers beyond the virtualization stall and into the cloud.

Next: Roadmap To A Private Cloud

That roadmap includes the adoption of a number of new technologies and ways of thinking that help complete the break from a focus on physical infrastructures.

They include utility billing, which enables companies to charge internal and external customers for the virtual resources they use; rapid scalability of the resources needed to offer new services; automation so that those resources can be provisioned with little or no manual intervention; self-service catalogs which let users build their own services; and enhanced management technologies for virtualized environments.

Customers understand the need for ROI and financial payback from their virtualized infrastructures, Kaplan said. "They understand virtualization," he said. "But they're stuck for all the reasons I mentioned."