Here's a question every CIO will find familiar: How can I get more business value from IT?
Virtualization is certainly a step in the right direction. Virtualization can make the data center more responsive to changing conditions and more scalable and flexible in the pursuit of business goals—in short, more business agility. And, if implemented effectively, virtualization can also reduce costs.
However, there is a big difference between an idea and its implementation. And for organizations interested in taking advantage of virtualization to create more business value, there are certainly better and worse ways to go about it.
Because each organization has a unique context—characterized by a unique set of assets, processes, strengths, weaknesses and business risks—each requires a unique strategy to leverage virtualization to maximize their results.
IBM can help customers improve their business agility by leveraging the latest virtualization technologies with integrated service management. IBM can help in four distinct areas or virtualization priorities that CIOs can use to create a tailored virtualization strategy for their specific organizational needs.
Each priority can build on the others. And while many organizations will get excellent results pursuing these priorities sequentially, they can be pursued in any combination depending on the customer’s particular needs and priorities. Collectively, all four can help drive down costs, drive up performance, and enhance business agility.
And together, they help ensure that the benefits of a virtualized infrastructure are not merely an abstract possibility, but an operational reality—a reality that's been tailored for the best business outcome.
Priority: Consolidate resources
This is probably the most familiar to many of today’s organizations because it reflects the reality of most of today's data centers: thousands of lightly used systems, in some cases utilized 20% of the time, but each continually drawing power and generating heat.
Consolidating onto fewer, systems, with higher utilization levels can deliver better business results. This type of an IT architecture can make the data center less physically complex, saving valuable floor space, while also minimizing the possible points of failure. The direct result: by consolidating systems, IT becomes more efficient and reduces ongoing operating costs.
Virtualization is a key technology to effectively consolidate. Furthermore, the extensive physical resources of each host (processing power, memory, or storage) can be allocated among those virtual servers flexibly, in proportion to changing business requirements. This means that application and service performance can scale to meet demand.
Priority: Manage workloads
The management challenge can often increase through virtualization. Where one application or service was previously supported by one physical system—a relatively simple paradigm—that may no longer the case. Now, there may be hundreds of virtual servers per system, and there may be hundreds of system images associated with those virtual servers.
Managers may need more time to track problems to root causes, or implement new strategies than they did before. The increased complexity can generate unexpected costs over time, diminishing the potential benefits promised by virtualization.
Organizations need to simplify the overall management challenge via best-in-class, centralized tools that are specifically designed for a virtual infrastructure, allowing managers to easily track status levels, perform everyday tasks, and implement any required form of change, all within an integrated systems management dashboard.
Priority: Automate processes
Automation can deliver lower operational costs, and deliver a faster response time in a consistent manner by minimizing the need for human intervention. While complex, sophisticated tasks will certainly require a dedicated human intelligence, they should be the exception, not the rule.
As a simple example, consider the sequence of events involved in provisioning a virtual server with an appropriate stack of software: OS, applications, middleware, drivers, data, and other elements. An automatic provisioning process can be dramatically faster than a manual provisioning. It can also be completely consistent from case to case. This means that the potential of any service or application failing due to inadvertent configuration errors can be minimized.
Automation can enhance a virtualized infrastructure in many such respects. For instance, service level agreements that specify performance levels can more easily be met if they are dynamically fulfilled through automated processes. Achieving regulatory compliance with government mandates can be simpler and less expensive. Crucial processes such as disaster recovery, involving predictable actions based on known resources, can certainly be faster and more complete if automated, meaning the organization can minimize the adverse business impact of a disaster.
In short, automation can help make virtualized infrastructures more efficient, cost-efficient, responsive, and available.
Priority: Optimize service delivery
The pinnacle of a virtualized infrastructure allows organizations to optimize the delivery of services that are tightly aligned with the organization’s—usually by empowering the business user to determine and control their IT priorities as directly as possible.
An example of this type of a delivery model is cloud computing. Utilizing a cloud computing infrastructure can cut the time required to translate a new idea into an actual running service. The time can be dramatically reduced from weeks to hours.
The result dramatically increases an organization’s business agility with a lower price tag—both today and tomorrow.