The Management Challenge

Virtualization is good. But, how are you going to manage this dynamic environment?

Managing the virtual environment and its new infrastructure is critical to continuing the journey to the Cloud and to delivering IT-as-a-Service. But, there is a growing gap in IT infrastructure management cost and time spent and what needs to get done. This should come as no surprise since IT budgets have mostly gone to maintaining the old, not building the new for what seems like an eternity.

To net it out, the old silo approach to IT no longer applies. It’s now all about how to stand up services quickly.

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick

Business agility, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency are key drivers for cloud computing according to an IDC CIO research report from earlier this year (IDC CIO Global Cloud Computing Adoption Survey, January 2011).

Reducing IT spend had been the main driver for virtualization along with increased resource utilization in years past, but now data center managers are firmly planted in improving business processes for better business agility.

It’s just like that old nursery rhyme- Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.

Organizations need to be adaptive and fast to compete. This change comes as no surprise since revenue growth is the goal of most organizations and cost containment, while it improves the bottom line, doesn’t do anything for the top line.

And, companies need to get to grow revenue—or risk losing market share.

Take the Management Challenge

You probably take it every day—like it or not.

The early stages of virtualization in the data center were about hardware consolidation and moving non-mission critical IT applications into virtual infrastructure for cost savings. Many organizations made good progress toward getting better utilization out of their infrastructure through virtualization of compute and storage resources, and optimization of networks.

Next, moving mission-critical applications brought cost savings and an increased quality of service from the new more reliable and flexible virtual environments.

Organizations started to see how they can deliver IT-as-a-service to their users and all the possible benefits that result from that new model. But, management of this new dynamic environment is a challenge.

While virtualization helps mitigate the rapidly growing demand for new IT resources, IT departments are under constant pressure from their internal customers to fulfill service requests as fast as or faster than third-party infrastructure outsourcing vendors.

The need to assure service levels for the infrastructure further compounds the challenge once services are stood-up. Service availability is critical as mission-critical applications (the ones that could get an IT Manager fired if they fail) are moved into this new infrastructure.

Applications moved into virtual infrastructure gain great benefits from added flexibility and mobility. But, IT still needs to be able to see and control these applications just as well if not better than when these applications were in physical infrastructure.

The new infrastructure disaggregates applications from the physical infrastructure. This abstraction makes the old ways of management highly difficult. The old management processes are highly manual and the tools that rely on applications being tied to hardware don’t cut it.

Additionally, the old approach of managing individual silos no longer applies. IT departments need to bridge the management gap that exists between the old silos while at the same time bringing greater visibility to both physical and virtual infrastructure.

And, with the onset of cloud architectures, these physical and virtual environments may be on premise, across town (in the case of a metro deployment), across the world (a reality with geographically dispersed operations), or across business entities (if using third-party service providers).

Finally, whatever the infrastructure management approach, regulatory and internal compliance needs need to be taken into account. Everybody is accountable to somebody, and in today’s world, it may be more like everybody is accountable to everybody.

How are IT departments going to do it?

What the World Needs Now

With the move to virtualization and cloud computing, organizations need tools that understand the dynamic relationship between applications and infrastructure. To assess and select the right technologies, organizations need infrastructure management solutions to provide:

Speed to Service

Tomorrow can wait, I need it today.

With an on-demand mentality introduced by third-party infrastructure outsourcing vendors, once users experience it they want to have their new applications and services quickly from their internal IT shop as well.

IT needs to stand up new services much faster than ever before—across physical and virtual environments, on premise and in cloud deployments.

Service Assurance

Instant gratification required all the time.

When IT stands up new services, they need to be able to assure the service levels for the infrastructure which means making sure all the parts work together correctly. Service assurance at the infrastructure level is a must—whether in-house or outsourced to a service provider.


It’s the law.

In an increasingly regulated world where failure to maintain regulatory standards can have significant legal and financial consequences, organizations have to be able to look across their infrastructure and show they adhere to standards at every level, not only to others but to themselves. Compliance is an absolute must.

While this challenge might seem insurmountable, technologies do exist to close the gap and new architectures are emerging to provide new world infrastructure management or IT departments. You can deliver IT-as-a –Service today, with time to service, service assurance, and compliance.

I’ll discuss some of these technologies and new architectures for infrastructure management in future posts here.

About the Author: Mark Prahl