Maximising virtualisation investments
Gordon Haff, Technology Evangelist, Red Hat

Maximising virtualisation investments

In technology, we often seem seduced into chasing the latest shiny object. Cloud! Containers! Orchestration! IoT! Big Data!

These are all well and good and can not only deliver significant value but can enable new classes of applications and revenue streams over time. That said, it’s worthwhile for IT decision-makers to pause to think about practical ways to increase the value of existing investments while simultaneously planning for exciting future opportunities.

Some people might be thinking that virtualisation is yesterday’s news. But it continues to play a major role within just about every enterprise IT infrastructure whether measured by the number of applications it touches, the expense of supporting it, or the number of administrators needed to manage it. At the same time, it’s often not used efficiently. At Directions 2016, IDC Group Vice President for Enterprise Infrastructure, Al Gillen, noted that virtual machine (VM) density is stalling out at about 10 VMs per server and between 30% to 50% server utilisation. This leaves ample room for improved efficiencies and financial value.

Modernising virtualisation can take a variety of forms. I’m going to focus on three pragmatic areas of value:

Get things done faster

Internal activities, such as provisioning servers or interacting with third-party systems, take away from the time that your system administrators can spend on other, potentially higher value tasks. Furthermore, application developers and other IT customers may be stuck waiting for those tasks to be completed. Faster cycle times for internal activities can bring benefits across the entire organisation.

These faster internal processes can, in turn, lead to what really matters: accelerating customer-facing activities. Whether responding more quickly to customer requests and improving customer satisfaction as a result, or bringing new products and services to market sooner, increased speed generally delivers direct business benefits.

Technologies that can help get things done faster include: self-service portals (which allow delegating tasks, under established policies, to users), automation (which improves both speed and repeatability), and third-party integrations (which reduce the amount of manual work required).

Save time and money internally

While speed (a.k.a. agility/flexibility/adaptability) is widely viewed as an important attribute of modern IT infrastructures, making efficient use of both physical and human resources is still a top-of-mind concern for almost every IT manager. It’s worth noting that even the Web-scale companies most associated with the newest technologies are also known for their extremely high physical densities and large numbers of servers handled by each system administrator.

Increasing the density of virtualisation deployments is a straightforward way to allow more workloads to run on a given number of physical servers. Equally important are management tools and processes that shut down workloads which don’t need to be running or which optimise workload placement and other parametres.

Stay safer, in control, and follow the rules

“Security” is often the shorthand here. However, it’s usually not familiar aspects of system security like access controls or firewalls that are causing the concern. Rather, it’s data jurisdiction, auditability, regulatory compliance, and verifiable end-to-end encryption that top the list.

Real-time monitoring and enforcement of policies can not only address performance and reliability issues before the problems become serious but they can also detect and mitigate potential compliance issues. Automating in this way can reduce the amount of sysadmin work that is required. However, it’s also a way to document processes and reduce error-prone manual procedures. Human error is consistently cited as a major cause of security breaches and outages.

In conclusion, while sometimes overlooked, improving the efficiency of existing virtualisation infrastructures can unlock significant value for organisations in the Middle East.

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