Like most IT managers, I recently had a virtualization assessment performed in my organizations Data Center environment. It was the garden variety assessment with consultants coming in and installing capacity planning software from VMware. We gathered statistics for several weeks and then formulated a list of virtualization candidates. Servers with average processing and memory loads within certain limits where classified as virtualization candidates and placed on the schedule to be brought into the ESX environment. There is nothing wrong with this exercise and it is absolutely necessary. It is however just the first step in identifying your virtualization candidates.
A recent IT manager panel discussion I attended on “Cloud Computing” made me realize how one dimensional the typical virtualization assessment is. One major topic of debate was security in the “cloud”. Who has access to the data, where is the data? These types of questions become paramount when dealing with regulatory issues such as PCI compliance. One IT manager at the panel shared an experience where auditors denied PCI compliance simply because their environment was virtualized. Other managers shared experiences where corporate politics and enterprise architecture standards prohibited systems from being virtualized. All this made me realize that to truly gauge a system as a virtualization candidate, a multidimensional criteria needs to be developed. Simply asking “can” a system be virtualized is not enough.
So, after your consultants show you the presentation with their capacity planner results your job is just beginning. You need to take each of your virtualization candidates and understand which business processes are enabled or impacted by that system. Understand both the regulatory, political and architectural implications of virtualizing that particular machine. Make sure you do a holistic virtualization assessment before you start cashing the checks you think you will get from your virtualization savings.