In a recent key note address at Gartner’s 2010 Infrastructure and Operations Summit, Raymond Paquet, Managing VP at Gartner, made the point that consistently over the last eight years 64% of the typical IT budget has been dedicated to tactical operations such as running existing infrastructure. A driving factor behind this consistent trend is the tendency of technology managers to over deliver on infrastructure services to the business. Paquet makes the point that technology managers should always be focused on providing the right balance between technology solution cost and the quality of service the solution provides to the business. As the quality of a technology service increases the cost of that service will naturally increase. There is often still a gap in the quality of service a business requires and what is architected and built by technology professionals. The key is to understand the businesses requirements in terms of parameters such as uptime, scalability and recoverability and to architect an infrastructure aligned with these requirements. Sounds simple, right? Often however technology professionals find themselves (usually inadvertently) swept up in implementing technology solutions that at specific levels of adoption add value to a business but at unnecessary levels of adoption serve to pull budgets and resources away from more value added activities. Virtualization is a case in point.
The gap between quality of technology services required by the business and the cost to deliver them can be observed today in the tenacious drive by many technology managers to virtualize 100% of their IT infrastructure. Gartner research VP Phillip Dawson points out what he calls the “The Rule of Thirds” with respect to virtualizing IT workloads. The theory is that one third of your IT workload will be “easy” to virtualize, another one third will be “moderately difficult” with the remaining third being “difficult” to virtualize. Most technology organizations today have conquered the easy one third and have began working on the moderately difficult workloads. The cost in terms of effort and dollars to virtualize the final one third of your IT workload increases exponentially. Are you really adding value to your business by driving 100% of your environment into your virtualization strategy? The recommendation from Dawson is to first simplify IT workloads as much as possible by driving towards well run x86 architectures. Once simplified, IT workloads with low business value should be evaluated for outsourcing or retirement. Retirement may consist of moving the service the application provides into an existing ERP system thus leveraging existing infrastructure. Workloads with high business value will likely now (after simplification) be cost effective to bring into your virtualization strategy.
So be selective in the applications you target for virtualization. Be sure that all steps have been taken to simplify the respective applications technology infrastructure so that it is not in the upper third of costs and effort in terms of virtualization effort. Outsource or retire complex applications where applicable rather than force fitting them into your own virtualization strategy. Look for ways to retire low business value applications with complex technology architectures (such as moving them into an existing ERP package). The bottom line is that all technology investments and initiatives must be aligned with your organizations needs and risk tolerance. Virtualization is no different. Making unnecessary efforts to virtualize certain applications may be doing more harm than good.