What are You Looking for in Virtualization?

Is your virtualization strategy to mirror the efforts of those around you or do you have valid reasons for taking the plunge? Only you know the answer. You'd better ask the right questions before throwing your physical dollars into virtual black holes.

"What am I supposed to be looking at?"

"You need to use an open source hypervisor." "You need to stick with Microsoft." "You need a turnkey solution from a single source company." "Here's what other companies are doing in this space." "This solution has the best security and security should be your top priority." Are your ears bleeding yet? If not, I can continue with an entire page of marketing speak that will leave you exactly where you are now. Lost. Lost in a sea of virtual turmoil and very real expense. But, if you're looking for answers on virtualization and virtual infrastructure, who has them? You do.

That's right, you do. You have the answers to all your own questions. No one else does. Certainly no single vendor does. And, neither does any particular consultant.

This may seem harsh but consider this scenario.

1. Business owner to asphalt salesman: "Hi, I'd like to resurface my parking lot, what should I do?" Asphalt salesman: "You should resurface with asphalt. It's much cheaper and easier to maintain than concrete."

2. Business owner to concrete salesman: "Hi, I'd like to resurface my parking lot, what should I do?" Concrete salesman: "You should resurface with concrete. It's much cheaper and easier to maintain than asphalt."

3. Business owner to consultant who's partnered with concrete company: "Hi, I'd like to resurface my parking lot, what should I do?" Consultant: "Well, you could do asphalt or concrete. Asphalt is less expensive upfront but requires more maintenance. Concrete is more expensive but more durable. How much money have you budgeted for the project?"

4. Business owner to consultant who's partnered with asphalt company: "Hi, I'd like to resurface my parking lot, what should I do?" Consultant: "Well, you could do asphalt or concrete. Asphalt is less expensive upfront and is more flexible. Concrete is very expensive. How much money have you budgeted for the project?"

5. Business owner to untethered consultant: "Hi, I'd like to resurface my parking lot, what should I do?" Consultant: "Have you heard about this new rubberized surface? It's a lot like those cool basketball courts."

Everyone has his own answer to your problems. Who can you believe? Who can you trust?

None of the above.

You need to figure out why you're taking on a virtualization project. Why are you wanting to setup virtual infrastructure? Are there alternatives such as cloud computing or hosting? Would virtualization really save you any money at all?

Only you can answer those questions.

Answer your own questions first and then challenge the vendors and consultants to create a plan that works for you.

Is that all too vague for you? If so, I'll clarify.

If you're investigating virtualization because it's an interesting technology or because "it's the way of the future," stop right now and don't go any further. You'll spend a lot of money and then wonder why you did it.

If, however, you're investigating it because you think that maintaining 500 physical servers comes at too high a cost and you'd like to reduce your support, maintenance contracts, data center space costs and licensing because you can also do a consolidation project as an interim step, then you've arrived at the brink of virtualization--where you should have been at least three years ago.

And, don't let the fact that you're an all Microsoft shop color your decision to go with one virtualization technology over another. They all do Microsoft and do it well.

List your needs, in order of priority, for your systems. Security, performance, accessibility, third-party tools support and compatibility with cloud offerings are a few that come to mind.

Hand your list to your vendors and let them play the numbers game.

Select the virtualization technology that fits your business and your fiscal goals. Remember that the least expensive solution may not serve you well and the most expensive solution may break your bank account. Consider all of your options and gather opinions all along the support continuum. A C-level executive's perspective on a technology will be far different than that of a "down in the trenches" techie.

Consider the technology learning curve and support materials as part of your decision. Support materials include: A strong user community, a regular maintenance release cycle, a regular stream of communication to clients and a comparative user base--comparable use cases similar to yours from which you can draw assistance.

"What are you looking for in virtualization," should be your first question. Your answer should reflect your current business needs, future business growth and some monetary payback. Don't be sucked into technology just because it's cool or because company X is doing it. Believe it or not, virtualization might not make sense for you. But, only you know the answer to that question.

What are you looking for in virtualization? Does virtualization make sense for your company? If you're contemplating a move toward virtualization, I'd love to hear about it. Use the Talkback and let me know.

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