Virtualised IT requires scalable management

Our research tells us that the move to virtualisation on volume servers is now well and truly under way. It also illustrates that we are still very much at the beginning of the virtualisation age. Today server virtualisation is being used primarily to consolidate workloads while making use of existing networking and storage infrastructure, architectures and operations.

Virtualisation has the potential to bring a whole new approach to IT, especially by taking advantage of the flexibility virtualisation brings to create a dynamic IT services environment. This vision is frequently called the private cloud.

Many IT vendors would blithely have you believe that it’s a completely natural progression from consolidation initiatives to the deployment of a private cloud. The reality is very different.

Culturally and operationally, many businesses are not yet ready to take advantage of the transformational change that comes with moving to private cloud. For those companies where dynamic IT can add value, getting it right is still not cut-and-dried.

There’s a lot of investment and work required across many parts of both IT and the business — including diverse areas such as architecture, business process re-engineering, systems management, service delivery, licencing, cross charging and procurement — in order to make dynamic IT a long-term success.

Of the many challenges, none is more important for laying the foundations of private cloud than automation, and with it the need to adopt an integrated approach to systems and service management.

The scale of the challenge is often under-estimated, but it is very real. Our recent research shows that the top challenge faced by many server and datacentre professionals is that operations staff are overstretched, and face many difficulties in managing and operating the IT infrastructure.

The situation today is that IT management processes are heavily dependent on skilled people doing things. This poses problems when looking to manage at the scale and speed that virtualisation promises, as there are limits to how many tasks human operators can accomplish and the speed at which they can work.

This puts the brakes on dynamic IT while keeping the costs of management high, due to the manpower involved. The extensive use of manual interventions also increases risk as people can get things wrong, especially when undertaking monotonous tasks repeatedly.

One of the biggest contributors to this situation is that IT management in many companies is not very structured, integrated or scalable. This is a legacy of the evolutionary nature of IT, where the infrastructure has developed haphazardly into a fragmented patchwork of applications and tools.

The end result is an IT management set that struggles to adapt and cope with traditional IT architectures let alone the new virtual wave. Dynamic IT amplifies the problem, and without being addressed, risks stopping virtualisation projects in their tracks as the management drawbacks begin to outweigh the advantages.

Here are the three main issues to address:

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