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Virtualization for the Luddite -Part 2 February 20, 2010

Posted by wholmes in VM101.

In my previous post,  I discussed the difficulties in explaining the virtues of virtualization to the average consumer. Today I will focus on a target audience that is familiar to all of us in the IT field, that being the “old-school IT Professional”. Before I continue, let me clearly define what I mean by old-school. It is not a reference to an IT Professionals age, specialty, or even to any specific product they support (after all, even Novell has a Cloud Computing strategy now 😉 ).  Old-school is more a reference to a mentality that resists the natural progression of change. Whether one realizes it or not, we are in the middle of a transformative era in the IT industry. I believe x86 virtualization has been the most disruptive technology since the advent of the WWW. And the full impact of virtualization is still far from being fully actualized.  Gartner estimates less than 20% of the worlds servers have been virtualized, and an even smaller fraction of that number for desktops. That number is estimated reach 50% by 2012. As virtualization cements itself as a key enabler of Cloud Computing, the full impact of the technology will become even more evident.

The Old-School IT Professional

So back to my friend Mr/Ms.Oldschool. The old-school professional doesn’t like change. Whether he/she is the application developer that says, “my app will never run on a virtual machine”, or is the infrastructure professional that has been happily managing their Windows/Linux/network/storage environment for years and says “if it isn’t broke, why change it”. They could even be the security professional that resists virtualization because, in their eyes “it has not been proven secure”. All of these people share one thing in common, a fear of change. So how do we convince someone like this the benefits of virtualization. Even before getting into the technical nitty-gritty of explaining to Mr/Ms. Old-school why virtualization is beneficial to them, I think we have to understand what Mr/Ms. Old-school is really afraid of.

Many times, the fear of change felt by Mr/Ms. Old-school is because they feel their job may be threatened. They have heard of the efficiencies gained by virtualization, and fear their job may become obsolete. Is this true? The most common retort to this fear is explaining their job will not disappear, but change as they will be freed to work on projects in proactive manner, instead of in a reactionary state of always putting out fires and fulfilling last minute requests. But my opinion differs slightly. Yes, their current job/role will become obsolete. Their job MUST become obsolete for the future datacenter to reach the efficiency businesses demand today. Whether your job disappears or not is up to you, Mr/Ms. Oldschool.

To stay relevant in the IT field, every professional needs to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their career. This has never been truer than in the environment we live in today. The combination of socio-economic policy such as the “go green” initiative, corporate  fiscal conservatism coming out of the recent recession, and the maturation of a really powerful technology has created a perfect storm of change. One can either be swept away by said storm, or ride it out to new career heights. The choice lies with each individual.

So what can we do to convince Mr/Ms. Oldschool that it is worthwhile to invest in virtualization. For that, I think I will employ a little whiteboarding….

Physical Datacenter

Above is Mr/Ms. Oldschool in the physical datacenter. They have to manage all these resources, and is driven by management to provide and adjust resources on the fly as business drivers dictate change. But this is no easy task, as the process to change these physical resources is extremely time consuming and labor intensive. In the upper right and corner, are the users, with never ending requests dictating business drivers like the march of undead zombies. As can be seen, no one in this environment is very happy. As pressure increases from the demands of the business, Management has even had to crack out the whip!

Virtualized Datacenter

Next we have Mr./Ms. Oldschool in the virtualized datacenter. The stream of requests from the undead users still pour in, but the workload on Mr/Ms.Oldschool is not nearly as time-consuming or labor intensive. Mr.Oldschool now has a pool of virtualized compute resources, abstracted from the physical resources, to allocate as needed, and meet the needs of the business. As can be seen, Management now no longer has to employ the whip.

While the virtualized datacenter is a far improvement over the physical datacetner, it is still not the final destination in the virtualization journey. Business drivers are still driven through a serial path, with Mr./Ms. Oldschool still many times in a reactionary state. The major improvement is it now takes a few hours to react and meet the needs of the business instead of days or weeks.


Finally, here Mr/Ms. Oldschool has reached the holy grail of the datacenter. This is the vision of VMware vCloud. The foundation of virtualization has now been built on top of with a self-service portal that ties back into the nebulous compute resources provided by virtualiztion. The never-ending stream of requests from undead users now can be self-fulfilled in parallel, allowing the allocation of compute resources to automatically be more closely tied to business drivers. If available compute resources suddenly wane, resources can be leveraged from an external public cloud. Business continuity is provided by another cloud hosting DR resources. As can be seen, everyone is very happy in this scenario. Mr/Ms. Old-school now can focus on a preemptive tasks such as capacity planning, planned change control, and further automation. Management is happy as all the business requests no long stream through them. Management is so happy in fact, that they are throwing money at Mr/Ms. Oldschool!

So hopefully, in understanding that virtualization is the building block and foundation of the dynamic datacetner, the old-school IT professional will get on-board and realize resistance is futile. Next, In the third and final installment of the Virtualzation for the Luddite series, we will discuss explaining the merits of virtualization to the IT Executive…


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