Managing the virtualisation transition

Virtualisation is now a mature, mainstream technology, with widely accepted cost savings and cost avoidance opportunities. So why do many virtualisation projects fail to achieve the goals or results they set out to achieve?

It’s worth asking: ‘What are the main pitfalls we need to look out for when undertaking a virtualisation project, and how can we maximise the potential of virtualisation?’

The first step to maximising potential is to ensure the accuracy of the forecast costs. Too many assumptions can become built into projects nowadays, often to cover the cost of tertiary devices, or other benefits to the business.

Baseline cost analysis must be accurate, honest and realistic. While industry figures can help to give some organisations a guideline, they will not work for everyone.

If the organisation already works “smart”, or conversely, if there is a large support organisation, then certain baseline adjustments will need to be made.

The baseline cost analysis and forecast ROI need to be measurable, and this measure must be taken when the project has been fully completed.

There are many potential pitfalls facing organisations that have implemented virtualisation projects. The primary reason for project failure is attempting to buy a single, easy plug-and-play solution.

The closest we can hope for over the next few years is a best-of-bread solution. It is important to identify the strongest or most strategic virtualisation players for your organisation in each of the following areas: Storage, HyperVisor, Fabric, Server, Service.

After identifying the strongest vendor in each category, bring these components together, prove them, and design with them in mind.

There is no ‘one-size-fits all’ answer for any organisation. Technology should always be separated from design - and the design should always focus on the business requirements or application delivery OLAs.

Organisations adopting new technologies often recruit to support projects. This may involve full-time equivalents or contract staff.

Each solution has its own risks and rewards, but often it has the same challenge, effort and duration, and eventually a higher cost.

The service approach must be agnostic to technology, and have solid depth in service delivery, an ITIL framework and be focused solely on the goals of the business.

Organisations should look to virtualise when it offers an opportunity for increased return on investment. Nobody has ever been fired for saving money on a project but if virtualisation doesn’t save the business money, the value of the proposition may never be realised, and the organisation will simply stay cost neutral.

Andrew McCreath is an Engagement Partner at GlassHouse Technologies. GHT is a global provider of IT infrastructure services enabling organisations to consolidate, virtualise and manage their IT environments