Sunday, 27 September 2009

Has Virtualization Solved the Data Center Crisis?

Clouds deliver several of the benefits of cloud computing within the enterprise

Over the past several years, many IT departments have committed to virtualization as an antidote to the spiraling costs and inflexibility plaguing corporate data centers everywhere.

By running applications on virtual servers and consolidating underutilized hardware, data centers can get maximum value from their equipment. Virtualization also makes IT more responsive to the needs of the business: rather than spending weeks or months to provision a physical server, a virtual server can be launched in minutes.

Virtualization was meant to be the solution to today's data center woes - but is it? While it brings much-needed flexibility and efficiency to an environment where these qualities were sorely lacking, virtualization alone doesn't cure the underlying problem and in some ways adds to it.
Companies still have large data center infrastructure footprints to maintain, plus virtualization licenses, plus management issues introduced by virtualization - ironically adding cost as they try to reduce cost. Many IT managers report that the technical and management challenges associated with virtualization are hindering them from realizing its full cost benefits. They're still paying huge energy bills (those consolidated servers are working much harder than previously). They're still running out of capacity and need to keep buying more servers and storage. And over half of them are still building new data centers at enormous cost.

We're Not Done Yet
But virtualization is one step toward a larger goal, not the end of the journey. IT is in the middle of a fundamental transition from the rigid, siloed world of traditional data centers toward a more elastic, responsive model where needs are met far faster and more efficiently. And we're not done yet. While virtualization helps companies reduce cost and improve agility, the full promise of the new model plays out with the addition of cloud computing, delivering infrastructure on demand as an easily-accessible, cost-effective service.

Rather than perpetuating a bloated data center, the new model will allow companies to get out of the computing infrastructure business where appropriate, retaining only the portion that is essential to the enterprise. As the cloud environment becomes increasingly agile and secure, provisioning decisions will be framed by asking: Should we be really be doing this ourselves, or can someone else do it better and at lower cost? The majority of companies surveyed that are either using or actively planning to run at least some apps in the public cloud have started asking themselves the same question.

Some companies - particularly larger enterprises with the skills and scale to do it effectively -- are building on their virtualized environments to create private, or internal, clouds that deliver several of the benefits of cloud computing within the enterprise.

Private clouds provide users with an elastic computing resource on demand and help make better, more efficient use of existing capacity. But IT departments still face many of the same fundamental challenges - they still need to buy, manage and grow the data center infrastructure on which the private cloud depends. As Gartner Group's Tom Bittman points out, for most enterprises, the private cloud is not the ultimate goal, it's another stepping stone to services available in the public cloud as they become available.

It's All About the Application
The real issue is determining where each application truly belongs. Some apps are simply not suitable for any cloud, while others, at least for the foreseeable future, belong in the private cloud. Some applications are candidates for the public cloud, but the appropriate services aren't ready yet. And some data center applications could be moved to a public cloud now or in the very near future.

While virtualization is a key step toward moving beyond the rigid data center, cloud computing takes you all the way there - which is why it's getting so much attention. With new technology from CloudSwitch under development, it may work for your enterprise faster than you think. Stay tuned.

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