Managing hybrid environments

Many suppliers of virtualization technology tell IT executives that all of their problems can be solved through the use of their technology.

Many suppliers of virtualization technology tell IT executives that all of their problems can be solved through the use of their technology. What they don’t often say is what they really mean is that everything will go well if the organization does the following things:

  • Virtualizes everything using that supplier’s virtualization technology,
  • Manages it with that supplier’s management tools,
  • And doesn’t have needs for features or functions that the supplier’s products currently don’t support.

Nearly all organizations deploying virtualization are working with hybrid environments. What does it really mean to have a virtualized environment.


There are many forms of virtualization technology. Each of these types of technology has a place in a well-designed virtualization strategy. Due to an amazingly successful marketing campaign by a major supplier of one type of virtualization technology, the media, consultants and some analysts mistakenly equate virtualization with virtual machine software. In reality, virtualization is far more. If you're interested in reading about the Kusnetzky Group model of virtualization technology, you can find more in the post Sorting out the different layers of virtualization


In reality, virtualization is the use of hardware and software technology to present a logical view of resources to developers, administrators, operators and system users. This logical view is often strikingly different than the actual physical view.

This means creating a setting that is perfectly suited to the task at hand even though the physical environment may be quite different than this ideal environment.


The appropriate use of virtualization technology offers organizations a number of benefits including improved levels of scalability, reliability and performance, far greater agility than possible in a physical environment and more optimal use of hardware, software and staff resources.

Virtualization technology makes it possible for many different computing resources to be viewed in a logical, not a physical way. Access, applications, processing, storage and network resources can be made to live in an artificial environment that is secure and well managed.


Organizations face several challenges when they start to consider deploying a fully virtualized environment. Let’s examine them one at a time.
A major challenge for most suppliers of virtualization technology is that today’s datacenters are hybrid environments. Mainframes, midrange systems and industry standard systems all have their place in the datacenter. Since each of these systems were installed to provide a specific function and that function is still needed to support the organization’s work, it is very unlikely that IT executives are going to walk away from those established systems.

IT budgets are quite limited and the last thing IT executives want to do is invest in re-implement something that is currently working. In the words of most developers, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

This, of course, means that the marketing message that everything will be fine if everything is virtualized and managed using a single supplier’s tools isn’t very realistic in today’s datacenter.

Mainframes have supported various forms of virtualization technology for well over 30 years. Midrange systems have supported virtualization for well over 20 years. Industry Standard Systems, a newcomer to the virtualization party, have supported various types of virtualization technology for only 15 years, give or take a decade or so.

Each of these types of systems supports different virtualization technology. These forms of technology are not interchangeable. Furthermore, each form of virtualization is designed to achieve certain goals. When organizations put the wrong tool to work, they usually end up with an unsatisfactory solution. I'm reminded of something that is attributed to Mark Twain - “To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail.”

Each virtualization technology is a good tool for some tasks and not very good for others. IT decision-makers typically select the environment that makes the most sense for the task they have at hand. No single choice works for all tasks.

When all considerations are examined together, the reason for hybrid environments becomes clear. Modern datacenters have many types of systems, many types of virtualization technology and this situation is likely to continue far into the future.


IT executives are looking for ways balance the need to make the best use of their limited resources while sill offering their organization an agile, expanding selection of IT-based solutions and services. Although the benefits of a virtualized environment can be compelling, they are not compelling enough to persuade these executives to walk away from decades of investment to restructure everything. In the end, they just want to make the best use of the technology they already have on hand and will deploy new technology and new systems only when necessary.

These executives are now grappling with the problem of managing hybrid environments in a cost effective way. They are searching for the best tools. Often these tools do not come from the company offering virtual machine software. Their tools were designed to manage only their environment aren’t really designed to deal with the complex environment within the datacenter.

What is your company doing to address this issue? Is there a specific vendor whose technology is handling the problem for you? Have you selected a portfolio of products that target individual areas of management?


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