How virtualization helps companies transform their approach to IT

Virtualization made its way into the mainstream data center with a strong cost-reduction value proposition centered around a straightforward tactic: server consolidation.

Now, on the back of the success these projects achieved, virtualization is gaining a more strategic role in the IT landscape. As virtualization initiatives delivered tangible bottom line benefits–in some instances up to 60% reduction in capital costs–companies looked to virtualize more. With expanded use, virtualization becomes more than an operational tactic; it becomes the foundation for a new approach to IT. An approach where IT services are freed from the complexity of the hardware infrastructure that delivers them. Through virtualization, companies are finally achieving “IT-as-a-service,” or cloud computing.

“Cloud” is a term that means many things to many people, but when viewed as an approach to computing that leverages the pooling of on-demand compute power delivered as a service, cloud computing really describes a new model for IT. And, an evolution to this computing approach is underway in thousands of data centers around the world. Our customers are on a journey that for many began with a single virtualized server.

I’ve already alluded to the first step of the journey, the “IT Production” phase. The IT organization is virtualizing what it owns–servers used for file and print or test and development–and the benefits are cost reduction through server consolidation, space and power savings.

Customers enter into the second phase of the journey–the “Business Production” phase–when they virtualize their first business application, such as a database, ERP system or enterprise e-mail. At this phase, the value proposition shifts and companies are virtualizing to achieve better quality of service (performance, reliability) or business continuity. Often, this shift is sudden and dramatic. At this point, the organization takes cost savings from consolidation for granted, and the focus has moved to faster provisioning, better capacity management, reliability and management automation for business applications. At this phase in the journey, IT is no longer the only stakeholder interested in virtualization. Because business-critical applications are involved, leadership from across lines of business are taking seats at the virtualization table.

While progressing through the first two stages of the journey, companies have used virtualization to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and increase service levels. The final stage of the journey is about business agility. We call this phase “IT-as-a-Service.” Typically, customers in this phase have more than 50% of their data center virtualized. Virtualization has become the norm–it’s just part of what IT does. And the result is that these companies have automated more processes, can deploy new services faster than ever before and are getting extremely high levels of utilization.

In this phase, resources can be allocated on demand where and when needed. IT is nimble. This model for the data center–made possible by virtualization and automation–could be described as a Private Cloud.

Throughout the journey, IT has delivered value, improved its credibility and evolved its relationship with the business. When our customers ask us, “How do I get to this new model of computing?” we tell them to keep doing what they are doing. Virtualize more, progress along the journey. Virtualization is the way forward.

In future articles I will dive deeper into some of the concepts that I’ve introduced here, covering best-practices that our successful customers have used to progress through the virtualization journey.

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