Monday, April 26, 2010

Free Virtualization Assessments?

It's a familiar story.

The client had wanted to move to a virtualised data centre for some time but non-essential IT spending had been frozen. They took a 10% haircut across IT in the past 18 months and most of their contractors had been dropped, but after a long cold winter they were coming out of hibernation as business improved.

The call came in first to the notional head of IT. As in so many UK companies the IT function did not have a CIO or board-level sponsor, but found itself reporting instead to facilities or operations. The call was from one of VMware's 2000-or-so UK partners.

They offered a free virtualization assessment.

Although not an IT professional, the head of operations knew his IT team wanted to virtualise and had been stopped from doing so the previous year. The assessment would take 30 days, required 1 brief visit to site, and wouldn't cost a penny. It would kick-start this year's biggest IT project, virtualising the data centre.

After a month the client was handed a spreadsheet, and a quote for VMware licenses and 20 new HP servers valid for 30 days. Not being a technology company, and being apprehensive about making the leap to virtualization, the client wasn't ready to just sign on the dotted line, at least not without getting some questions answered:
  • What about re-using some or all of their servers?
  • How would this protect their investment in Network Attached Storage?
  • Did they need a paid-for product, what about free software like ESXi, Hyper-V, or XenServer?
  • How would a virtualised estate cope with growth coming out of recession?
  • How would all this fit in with the existing Disaster Recovery plan?
  • Did they have the required skills to operate a newly virtualised estate?
  • How firm was support for their critical ERP and CRM software in a virtual environment?
The spreadsheet didn't say. The reseller, seeing the prospect of 20 licenses and HP servers disappearing, didn't say either. They just seemed to lose interest. At this point the client found our web-site, registered to download a case study, and recounted his tale to us. Unfortunately, a virtualization assessment isn't just a maths problem that can be solved by dividing workloads by servers and multiplying the result by the cost of a VMware/XenServer/Hyper-V license. Automated tools and spreadsheets won't answer any of the points above, at least not the tools we have seen. A comprehensive Virtualization Assessment will however provide you with the foundation you need to adopt this technology in the most appropriate way for your business. Our comprehensive virtualization assessments will:
  • Reduce the risks inherent in adopting new technology
  • Increase the accountability of IT to the business over this project
  • Help you set budgets appropriately
  • Predict skills gaps and identify a plan to fill them
  • Support your IT staff with product-neutral advice and vendor evaluation
  • Accurately set expectations for timescales and functionality
  • Identify where virtualization impacts DR & BC processes
Where does that leave the average software reseller and his automated tool? Ever heard the saying "when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail"? If you want to virtualize mission critical systems in a safe, planned, way, but need more than a spreadsheet and a quote for some software to guide you, then let us know.

No comments: