by Laurianne McLaughlin

Virtualization 2.0: Whoever’s Most Agile for the Business Wins

Jun 20, 20084 mins

Virtualization capacity planning should not be a one-time project. It should be an ongoing discipline for IT leaders who want to increase IT agility for the business. And agility is what gets virtualization masters truly excited.

If you talk to CIOs who really “get” virtualization, the benefit that excites them the most is not cost savings but agility. I’m talking about the ability to say yes, quickly, to a business side request. Virtualization is helping smart IT leaders morph from “no” people to “yes” people. That’s a huge shift for many IT organizations and companies. But in order to be a yes person, you need to have enough carefully-managed virtual infrastructure on hand.

This is where virtualization management tools from the likes of Akorri and CiRBA, which released an updated version of its software this week, can earn their keep.

You’re not thinking about virtualization capacity planning on an ongoing basis? Big mistake, says IDC research director Stephen Elliot, a good source on virtualization best practices. (IDC is a sister company to CXO Media.)

“Many IT organizations start with the idea that capacity planning is a one time project, when in fact it should be an ongoing discipline as virtualization usage proliferates, Elliot says. “Right now, most IT organizations use capacity planning through an initial services engagement, and not as an ongoing demand management technique. This will change over time for IT organizations that understand that virtualization is really about the application services, and the opportunity to increase IT agility.”

Or as CiRBA CTO and co-founder Andrew Hiller put it to me last week, “After you virtualize an environment, you realize things come up every day.” Some application changes and becomes a memory drain on the physical box. Some new process becomes a security problem. And so on. With the new CiRBA tool, Data Center Intelligence 5.0. the company has emphasized on-the-fly analytics that can be pushed via dashboard, alerting you to these blips on the virtual radar screen.

CiRBA’s tool was already known for helping IT staff do detailed analysis on how to consolidate physical boxes into virtual machines, considering server configuration, business process and utility issues. The new version makes doing ongoing analysis of the virtual environment a priority. (The software also adds functionality that helps you do financial chargeback planning and power consumption analysis—two areas that will no doubt continue to increase in importance for IT.)

If you haven’t seen the CiRBA tool, it will display a 3D model of your physical and virtual infrastructure, showing you what looks like a Rubik’s cube of red “hotspots” that could pose trouble—a memory-hogging app; a database that shouldn’t live on the same box as another app for security reasons, and so forth. (For a look at how one IT shop uses the technology, see our recent profile on how Underwriters Laboratories uses CiRBA’s tools to plan virtualization moves. )

I find CiRBA’s tool interesting not only because you can use it to optimize your virtual setup, but also because you can use it to compare virtualization architectures and hardware platforms—without any pressure from a hardware vendor who necessarily has a point-of-view.

How does this work? The product has access to a database of built-in intelligence about popular virtualization software and about server hardware. So for example, you could compare how your particular setup’s needs would be met on Dell blade servers running VMware versus the same scenario running on Sun boxes running LDoms.

You could also use CiRBA’s tool to compare how your environment would run on Microsoft Hyper-V as opposed to VMware.

Today you can track VM configuration and power trends using CiRBA tools, and spot potential risks, say when two VMs stick out from the rest for a security reason. Tomorrow, Hillier says, he hopes the company can enhance the tool to apply past intelligence about your data center to make VM placement and management even more automated.

But no matter which management and analysis tools you select, put ongoing capacity planning higher on your virtualization to-do list. It doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s a path to “yes” for the business. And that ability to say yes is one way that good IT leaders become known as great IT leaders.