Thursday, May 24, 2012

Moving Beyond Virtualization - The Journey to the cloud

The main objective of enterprise IT systems today it to enable efficient execution of business process.  Greater the efficiency, greater the business advantage in terms of cost savings and faster responses to customer needs resulting be more business.

Today, enterprises have embraced virtualization as a means to achieve cost savings. The sever virtualization has led to significant savings in IT operations in terms of data center consolidation and are now embarking on the journey to improve business process efficiency that can achieved with cloud technology.

To improve business operational efficiency, enterprises must build IT systems that are highly efficient and flexible. To get there the desired benefits, there are four distinct steps:

1. Consolidation

Efficiency in IT systems can be achieved by virtualization and consolidation. Server virtualization (VMWare or Hyper-V) will help in reducing the number of physical servers, converged infrastructure or unified computing systems - such as VBLOCKs, Cisco UCS can help consolidated multiple (10-12) data centers into few (2-3) data centers. This consolidation will help lower operational costs: reduce energy consumption, office space, and IT management costs.

2. Automate IT Operations

Once data centers are consolidated, the management of the data centers should be centralized and automated. Common IT operations such as infrastructure monitoring, system provisioning, compliance checks, security monitoring, network management, data management (backup/restore, disaster recovery, etc.) must be automated. Today, enterprises are building self service portals for system provisioning which cuts down the time and efforts need for  IT infrastructure sizing and design - from weeks to minutes. Automated systems can detect faults and initiate DR plans on the fly. EMC VPLEX along with VMWare's vMotion is a classic example of a completely automated disaster recovery system.

IT Operations management software automates redundant, repetitive IT tasks, integrates those tasks into a single group of common services: Availability/Performance services, or storage services, or security services, etc. A common web based dashboards are created to provide a dashboard view of how those integrated tasks are performing.  From these dashboards, services can be monitored and controlled through a single consolidated system management center from where corrective actions can be taken if needed.

Automating IT Operations helps business operations in two main ways:

1. Reduces the cost of managing & operating the IT system - which has a direct impact on the bottom line.

2. Improves business effectiveness by allowing business managers see how much IT resources they are consuming & it is costing the business. This helps business users to better allocation of resources - via self-provisioning.  

By automating IT operations with a virtualized, self-provisioning infrastructure, a web based service delivery systems can be built which give enormous flexibility to business operations. Business operations will no longer be constrained by physical barriers and locations.

3. Manage Workloads

Workload management is still evolving. The intelligent loadbalancers today from F5 networks or A10 Loadbalancers can manage server pools, move workloads across server clusters, power up/down servers based on the active workloads. Active loadbalancing with VMWare vCloud Director, vCenter along with SDN (software Defined Networks) and Unified storage systems (EMC VNX & VNXe) are setting the base foundation for workload management.

Workload management helps improve IT systems utilization - which helps to reduce costs, and increases business operational flexibility.

4. Optimize service delivery 

Iaas, SaaS, DaaS are the common terms today for service delivery. IT organizations are creating several types of services to business, which helps business operations the flexibility and salability as needed. Business operations are now more responsive to customers and have the ability to scale up/down based on market conditions without incurring heavy costs.

Amazon, for example is able to scale up retail sales for the peak Christmas season, while other retailers struggle.

Apple is able to meet the sudden surge in demand of the new iPad or for iPhone 4S - mainly because they have built a scalable, flexible supply chain - which is managed by their efficient IT systems.

Closing Thoughts

Virtualization is not the end, it is the new beginning for a new way if IT operations. In the new world, IT operations will be lean, efficient, and scalable - giving strategic advantage to business operations by lowering cost of operations, increasing flexibility and salability of business.

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