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Virtually Real

By sanjay.gupta

Added 15th October 2012

IT leaders have made positive strides in server virtualisationand virtualising apps is the next natural leap

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It is natural to leverage technology to the fullest extent to deliver new customer services, improve operational efficiency and cultivate collaborative efforts that lead to innovation. Most IT heads across industry verticals have made positive strides in leveraging server virtualisation technology to transform IT and thereby reduce hardware and operating costs while increasing speed and responsiveness of the infrastructure. The effort is only getting better in virtualising applications, which are on the rise.

Some Virtual Insights
Today, most organisations have already virtualised some of their applications and plan to virtualise more. While IT heads have virtualised less important applications, there are certain hindrances with regard to virtualising business critical applications as customers are sceptical about security.

In one of the surveys conducted by Symantec, Virtualisation and Evolution to the Cloud survey, 2011, a majority of the respondents said security concerns stopped them from porting business-critical applications on virtualised servers. Besides, the main goals of the participants were improving storage and server performance through virtualisation; however, over 81 per cent said they were not very confident about business critical applications meeting performance needs if placed on the virtual mode.

But a deeper dive into the customers reaction over virtualising servers indicated that most of those who had virtualised the servers had realised the benefits of virtualisation. These included lowering capital and operational expenses, less downtime and faster delivery of applications from streamlined test and development processes. The success boosted the confidence of the IT heads towards considering virtualising infrastructure and applications.

The Promise of Virtualisation
In general terms, it is critical to understand the benefit of virtualisation as its promise extends beyond economy and efficiency. Virtualisation has the potential to dramatically raise ITs service levels and the ability to meet changing business requirements, while reducing development, deployment, and management costs of application infrastructure and operations.

It is important to discuss the journey towards virtualisation before laying emphasis on business critical applications. For most organisations, initial projects focus on ITs own test and development. As IT experience and business confidence with the technology grow, organisations begin to consider virtualising business production applications. Since the quality of service and resiliency determine the rate of adoption of virtualisation for business critical applications, it is slightly slow at this juncture. Before getting on to production applications, companies are making the environment virtualisation ready and ensuring high-availability, easy DR, making the environment secure, combined with high level of service offerings. A gradual progression is made to more important applications, while demanding SLAs.

Key Transformation Strategies
IT organisations are trying to unlock the potential of virtualisation by combining three elements. They include:

*Virtualising more infrastructure
* Consolidating application silos into shared pools
*Automating provisioning and service-level processes

Virtualising more infrastructure
Virtualisation and cloud computing promise scalability, automation, elasticity, and cost-effectiveness. But restricting virtualisation to development environments or non-critical applications limits the benefits it can deliver; the best returns are achievable only by virtualising more applications.

For most organisations, overcoming security, availability, and storage management challenges is an essential step to adopt cloud computing environment managed in-house to an extent, as well as externally.

Consolidate resources
Virtualising application infrastructure delivers hardware savings and operational efficiencies, but real transformation requires more. True data-centre transformation requires consolidated pools of server, network, and storage capacity that can be applied to many different application workloads and utilisation requirements.

Properly implemented virtualisation delivers flexibility, quick provisioning of new servers, dynamic allocation of storage on demand, and helps address business requirements like demand spikes. Such a shared-services model can reduce costs by increasing utilisation of server capacity and avoiding over provisioning.

Automate provisioning and service-level processes
Virtualisation and consolidation pave the way for dramatic increases in the level of automation an environment will support. Automating request, provisioning, and management processes for server, storage, and network resources cut staffing costs and accelerate execution. Automation of processes with service-level impacts high availability, disaster recovery, data protection, security and compliance, and more--are essential steps in delivering on the strategic promise of virtualisation.

Next Wave-Virtualising Business Critical Apps
The most important and biggest step is to virtualise business critical applications, which will drive the real business benefits for any organisation. Here are some recommendations that organisations can follow to virtualise business-critical applications with confidence:
* Business-critical workloads need advanced security, availability, and storage management. Adopt solutions that work effectively on all leading virtualisation platforms

* Rapid changes in demand for critical applications can affect latency, performance, availability, and other key service levels. Adopt solutions to instrument your virtual data centre and adjust processes that affect service levels automatically and continuously as demand changes.

* Virtualisation expands an organisations end points which get vulnerable to security attacks. Keep risks under control by extending current security policies across physical and virtual environments. Use technology that auto-detects rogue virtual machines and scans offline virtual machines to detect vulnerabilities before they cause a problem.

* Because server virtualisation can increase storage requirements dramatically, inefficient storage management can reduce or even nullify cost savings from server consolidation. Manage your storage efficiently with de-duplication, reclamation of orphaned storage, virtualisation of pooled storage and dynamic storage tiering and provisioning.

* Have the visibility and control to automate service-level processes, accelerate virtual server and desktop deployments, and cut the cost and complexity to manage and protect high-density virtual and physical infrastructure.

- Vijay Mhaskar is VP - Information Management Group, Symantec.

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