A recent overseas survey of 460 IT decision makers in medium to large organisations has returned surprising but increasingly familiar results: virtualisation brings savings, but it can also increase costs in other areas.
CA Technologies commissioned an independent market research company to conduct the survey and the results are mirrored in local African markets.
“Over the last year or so, we have been asked by major consulting groups here in South Africa why their customers are not seeing better savings from ongoing virtualisation initiatives,” says Gareth James, CA Southern Africa cloud strategist for IT management experts.
“The overseas survey reflects the same concern. Some 60% of IT managers are disappointed in savings achieved and about 5% actually report increased costs.”
To find the answers for why this is happening requires broad vision and asking the right questions.
“History plays a role,” says James.
“What you can call the first wave of virtualisation – server consolidation and so on – brought real savings, often better than expected. This created the impression that further virtualisation would build on that success. But the next wave is not always getting these results.
“The assumption that one could extrapolate from first wave success and scale to more complex solutions has proved inaccurate. Server consolidation is a clear winner but further virtualisation is not so simple.”
Virtualising applications and the systems and processes that they support introduces a slew of challenges.
“Issues such as change management, security and compatibility are just the first hurdles,” says James.
“Then there is the matter of licensing. Most agreements charge per-processor, whether that hardware is real or virtual.
“A further issue is that providing extensive extra resources for users has to be managed. The tendency is that these resources will be consumed rapidly, increasing the burden on IT management,” says James.
“It’s almost like the Wild West. Land was made available for free but the people who claimed that land then faced the problem of securing it and maintaining it. You see the same pattern in IT management of virtualised systems.”
Is there an answer?
“The key finding in the survey is that automation supports savings,” says James.
“Some 44% of the people surveyed said their server provisioning was automated – and they report real savings. A different 48% who used manual server provisioning report that virtualisation introduces new costs.
“Without automation, IT staff can be overwhelmed by the complexities and challenges of managing a highly distributed IT infrastructure consisting of virtual and physical servers, applications and dynamic cloud-based services. These complexities can negate any benefits organisations hope to realise.
“Capacity and infrastructure management are also key elements. Successful solutions need to look at the whole virtual machine lifecycle. Then you can achieve the savings that are the whole point of the exercise.”