Virtualisation at all Scales, but where’s the management engine?

Over the course of the last few weeks anybody taking even a quick scan of the IT media would have been inundated, if not overwhelmed, by the flood of press releases detailing product developments in the heady world of virtualisation. The scope and speed of the developments border on the bewildering as the range of applicability of virtualisation ranges from individual applications and virtual machines running on laptops and desktops through small and large x86 servers all the way up to the largest mainframe, the IBM z10. Even virtualisation in the storage arena is moving forward just as rapidly, and again across all scales.

But where is the common management framework that could enable any virtual platform to be managed and administered as part of the big picture rather than as a standalone element? Well as things stand today it’s called “IT staff”. The management software tools currently on offer are not keeping up with the extraordinary pace of developments. In fact this challenge is probably beyond the wit of man but it is fair to point out that this area is badly lagging behind and has done so for some time.

Frankly this is almost unbelievable given that over the course of the last few years organisations have been pointedly seeking to optimise, finance officer code for minimise, all areas of IT expenditure of which personnel costs are anything but trivial. And across much of IT management tools have developed apace although it would be only fair to point out that whilst today considerable automation of once routine IT administration is now feasible such capabilities have yet to be fully exploited in most organisations in any area of IT. This is mostly down to either a lack of trust in the tools themselves or that organisations have still to put in place the processes and policies needed to fully make use of automated systems management; possibly both.

In any case management tools for the many areas impacted by new virtualisation solutions are nowhere near as sophisticated as might be expected and as are plainly required now that virtualisation is seeping into the mainstream. As things stand today Manpower is taking the place that should be held by management tools as the unifying administrative framework for virtualisation. Things are changing but not quickly enough. The deployment of virtual platforms has brought considerable economic benefits in terms of the better utilisation of computing resources but these are under threat unless management tools catch up. Of more importance still is the fact that the real medium and long term value of virtualisation can never be truly exploited without excellent management solutions being aggressively deployed in support of business critical operational platforms in order to generate new value. I am referring to the flexibility to rapidly respond to fluctuating business conditions that is a fundamental advantage of virtualised operations. Herein lays the key to business value generation rather than simple cost avoidance.

The management tools available to manage virtual systems are developing and these advances need to accelerate. Equally organisations must work out which ones will fit their needs if flexibility is be made available, operational risk is to be minimised and IT costs are to be controlled. The challenge is there to vendors, service organisations and to business as a whole. Virtualisation must stop being seen as a purely a simple cost control lever if additional business value is to be generated. But in a poor economic climate in much of the world, can this happen or is the timing wrong. Is your business bold enough and ready to exploit virtual solutions to generate value or are you still solely focused on cost?

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