Virtualization: Rationale for IT Managers

guestbloggerDon Spencer (Waterloo, ON, IT Professional)

You've heard about it. You've seen a keynote address at EnergizeIT. Your colleagues and staff- and perhaps even your tech-savvy CEO - are talking about it. And they're turning to you for leadership and direction. What now?

Your job is "to ensure the streamlined operation of the IT Department in alignment with the business objectives of the organization" (according to the IT Job Description Catalog). Only you will have a clear handle on the enterprise-specific business objectives you face, but all IT managers face a common set of concerns and objectives in which virtualization technology can play a part. These include:

  • consolidating technology
  • saving money
  • improving operations
  • managing risk and regulatory compliance
  • achieving business flexibility
  • becoming more market-focused

If your company is already using virtualization technology, the chances are that you are doing so merely for technical functions and haven't truly considered some of the business objectives (interestingly, only about 33% of enterprises are using any virtualization technology at all - see IBM's March 2007 white paper, "Driving business value with a virtualized infrastructure" for details).

Using IT resources to drive business innovation is likely to get a hearing from C-level executives in your company, especially if you can demonstrate that technologies like virtualization can promote a competitive advantage. In that vein, perhaps IT managers need to classify and promote virtualization initiatives according to business opportunities instead of technical categories. 

Consider the standard technical classification embodied in the following list:

  • server virtualization
  • storage virtualization
  • operating system virtualization
  • application virtualization

Instead, you might opt for the following:

  • improving operations (server consolidation)
    • reducing power and cooling costs
    • consolidating similar and dissimilar applications
    • redeployment of IT staff to business initiatives instead of server maintenance
  • easier access to trusted information (storage virtualization)
    • ensuring structured and unstructured customer information is readily available across all "silos" and business processes
    • "pool" information gathered for compliance for ready use in daily operations
    • preparing for disaster recovery with provisioning of "backups" in minutes rather than days
  • achieving flexibility (application consolidation)
    • providing "software-as-a-service"-like flexibility by adding, subtracting, and rearranging applications and modules
    • reduce complexity by making "silos" invisible to users

This might seem like so much smoke and mirrors to a jaded audience. You've been mandated, as an IT manager, to reduce costs and complexity, achieve more efficiency, improve information access, and so on...all without spending more money.

It may seem that way, but what I'm recommending here is a shift in perspective and an even more dramatic change in the language of information technology management. The rule is this: when you change the vocabulary you use on a regular basis, you change the way you think, and you change the way your are perceived.

Virtualization is, without a doubt, one of the most promising technical innovations on the IT horizon. But even the name - virtualization - betrays a barrier between those who know technology and those who know business. Your job, as IT manager, is to bridge that gap. Who knows, you might even get some unexpected funding in the process.

Stay tuned for the next part in this mini-series in which I get back to technical basics with some resources that will help you communicate with your confreres about virtualization technology.

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