Afterward, in a conversation with Steve Herrod, CTO of VMware, I realized they are not unique and may be simply examples of a very broad trend. The Roswell Park Institute for Cancer Research, Rooms to Go, Orchard Supply Hardware and the Owen Bird Law Corp. are all examples of firms that began with server consolidation and have started to move beyond that into network and storage virtualization to realize greater gains.
"We see customers going through different phases. We keep using this term,' the journey,'" said Herrod. Virtualization allows IT to be separated into its logical parts instead of being driven by physical installations and hard wired connections. In a fully virtualized data center, storage can be treated as a logical resource, re-organized around the principle that it exists for the benefit of a large group of servers. "For the whole of IT itself, it's a pretty dramatic change. IT is challenged to become more like a service provider," said Herrod.
If you can define services in advance of demand, as virtualization allows, then you can set up those services in advance and speed the delivery of IT services. You can even move to more of a self-service environment with your customers. This is easy to state, harder to do. Access must be controlled. Users must be defined not only with a unique identifier but with a role that might vary under different circumstances. Nevertheless, identification must always be tied to the appropriate role and correct level of access to data and resources.
If the roles and policies governing them can be set up in advance, then IT needs to intervene only when the policies are being violated or a user claims an exception to the rules must be created.
A conclusion hidden in the steps toward virtualization is that "consumption of IT is being separated from production," Herrod says.
The manufacture of services can be done in advance. After virtual servers and appropriate networking and storage are created as logical units, then the consumption of these services needs to be monitored and charged for on a pay-for-what-you use basis.
Departments may be shocked at what they find they are consuming of the common resource. Herrod quips that future tracking of use and chargeback will lead to "the seven stages of grief when they see the bill, starting with denial." It didn't matter to them they still had 15 Windows Servers they were no longer using. There was no direct cost accounting, so in the past they just said "no" when asked by IT if they could be shut down. "The cost of what they were using was hidden in the annals of the IT budget," he notes.
Nevertheless, this separation of production from consumption "is the key to fast-moving IT," said Herrod. Virtualization is the key to much more than the savings of server consolidation. The implementers that we cite this week in the cover story of our downloadable PDF issue, Virtualization Beyond Consolidation, are discovering this for themselves and sharing the results.