Infrastructure Management Software Blog

Economy Down, Virtualization Ratios Up


I've been talking to a lot of our customers recently about their HP Software installations and the way they are evolving their IT infrastructures. Inevitably a common thread with most of them has been their adoption of Virtualization.


What has surprised me a little is  what seems to be a significant increase in terms of the number of virtual machines (VMs) that folks are aspiring to host on a virtual server.


We've done some analysis in this area in the past - and discussed it with folks like VMware.  Roughly speaking, 12 - 18 months ago we were seeing 10:1 (VMs per server) where folks had actually started virtualizing. We expected to see 20:1 this year. 


My discussions seem to suggest that 30:1 is a more common goal, with some of our customers targeting 40 or even 60:1 (and in one case 100:1!).


There is another 'trend' that my mini-survey seems to reveal. In general the ratios for Intel/AMD based VMs (such as Microsoft Windows on VMware) tend to be higher than for RISC based virtualization. Maybe this is a reflection that the RISC based servers have tended to host heavy duty commercial applications so more resources are needed.


So why is this accelerating so rapidly? My personal view is that the economic downturn has encouraged IT executives to be less risk adverse when presented with an opportunity, like virtualization, which could help drive down costs.

Without the intense pressure to reduce costs, virtualization maybe looked like a bit of a risk so folks sat on the fence and waited for others to jump. But when the cost cutting pressure climbed during the downturn, folks were willing to make the leap and embark on virtualization - the perceived risks were over-ridden by the potential upsides.


And once folks embarked down the virtualization path they realized it was going to be OK, and I see this as driving two behaviours. The first is the increased ratios already discussed, but the second is that I've heard a number of customers say that "we're virtualizing everything / all new servers will be VMs unless there is a compelling business case for a physical server".


"In for a penny in for a pound" as we say in the UK.


So what are your virtualization ratio goals?

A New Data Center is an Opportunity for New Thinking

With all the doom and gloom in the news these days, it was a bright spot in my week to have a meeting with a customer that is planning to build a new data center next year. Even more surprising is that the company is in the financial services industry. And no, they are not receiving any government money to finance this project.

They visited our Executive Briefing Center to learn about best practices in IT transformation. In the introductory comments, the Director of IT (who reports to the CIO) stated “A new data center is opportunity for new thinking.” So, this set the context of looking at the state of the art in data center management and how to build it right if you are starting with the proverbial clean sheet of paper, which in this case, they are.

First, let’s cover their existing IT environment. 900 people (mix of on-shore and off-shore) managing an assortment of hardware (most of it non-HP), running UNIX (not HP-UX), using enterprise storage from one of the major vendors. For management tools, they own a large collection of tools from a single vendor (not HP), most of which has not been deployed because of its complexity and problems with the parts they have put into production. But, in all fairness, what they have does work at some level as they do not currently have issues with outages.

So, where are they going? On the infrastructure side, they are planning to move to Linux, blade servers (likely HP) running Oracle 11g, and VMware. They also plan to refresh their enterprise applications to the latest versions. And, they plan to experiment with some software as a service (SaaS) to see if it meets their needs and fits with their culture.

The overall IT infrastructure management strategy is (1) prevent, (2) detect, (3) respond. Currently, they do not have a true NOC. They are moving in that direction following an ITIL model, building an Operations Bridge. Their IT management goals are to reduce time on incident management and to add automation as much as possible to reduce human error.

On the IT management tools side, they need a way to manage the physical and virtual infrastructure, from the OS through the applications, in a single enterprise event consolidation console. This will capture all the events (after they are de-duplicated upstream), prioritize according to business goals, and then respond appropriately, either by automatically fixing them or by routing to the right subject matter expert.

They generally liked HP’s vision and the success stories we shared about other organizations that had already implemented all or part of their vision. Interestingly, the place that generated the most skepticism was our discussion about runbook automation. While they saw the value of automating IT processes, they just could not believe that they could use this technology to streamline some of their common IT problems. Even talking about specific use cases (from a pool of hundreds of customers) did not sway them, Since seeing is believing, the sales rep took an action item to schedule a follow up meeting where we can show them a demo.

Overall, a great discussion. And, a happy day to hear that a customer is planning a new data center. Even more so when they want to use the opportunity to re-architect their systems to build in the latest and greatest business technology optimization.

For Operations Center, Peter Spielvogel


Virtualization provisioning: 6 minutes to server! 6 hours to service?

(A guest post from Kalyan Ramanathan, virtualization expert from HP’s Business Service Automation group.)

It is one of the key promises of virtualization - it makes IT move very fast. You can scale up and down in minutes - all you do is stand up more virtual infrastructure and you are done.

But, does it really work as advertised? Are you just scaling servers or launching full business services?

It turns out that making this new infrastructure IT service-ready isn’t exactly that simple. While provisioning a virtual server is fairly simple now - all you is clone the server template and start the new virtual server (and many virtualization vendors already provide tools to do so), the virtual server still needs to be provisioned with storage and network resources to make the server usable. And this requires coordination with the storage and network teams - tickets need to be created, server/storage/network details need to be provided and cross-silo tasks need to be orchestrated to make this all work. And this “weakest link” can now eliminate the agility benefits of virtualization.

A virtualization customer recently described the problem as the 6 minute, 6 hour conundrum – it takes 6 minutes to provision the server and then it takes another 6 hours to provision and configure storage and network resources and scale up the service.

The HP Business Service Automation suite focuses on provisioning complete business services, across applications, servers, network and storage. The solution accelerates the time to scale the IT service. It includes the following products.
• HP Operations Orchestration coordinates the end to end process and the various steps in the process
• HP Server Automation provisions the virtual servers and applications
• HP Storage Essentials creates and provisions storage to the virtual server
• HP Network Automation configures network resources and settings
• HP Client Automation can configure thin clients and server images to support the scaled up service.

All these solutions work across physical and virtual infrastructure from HP and other vendors.

Is your IT group bragging about 6 minutes to a new server while the line of business managers are left waiting for their service to go live? How long does it take you to provision a service so it is completely ready to run?

For business service automation, Kalyan Ramanathan.

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