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HP's Virtualization Honcho John Bennett: Rethinking Virtualization

HP's Virtualization Honcho John Bennett: Rethinking Virtualization

Following a series of announcements by HP on the virtualization front, contributor Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions interviewed HP's virtualization visionary, Don Bennett. The pair spoke about how virtualization is making inroads into data centers worldwide.

By Dana Gardner
09/04/08 5:06 AM PT

HP announced a series of wide-ranging virtualization Visit the VMware Tech Center products, services and initiatives on Sept. 2. The drive indicates a global and long-term surge by HP on managing solutions for virtualization, but in the context of business outcomes and in a management framework that includes larger IT transformation strategies.

I conducted an earlier panel discussion on the HP announcements and vision, but also decided to go the top and interview the visionary behind the virtualization vision, John Bennett, the worldwide director of HP's data center transformation solutions and also the HP Technology Solutions Group (TSG) lead for virtualization.


Listen to the podcast. (39:12 minutes)

Here are some excerpts from our chat:

John Bennett: We see large numbers of customers, certainly well over half, who have actively deployed virtualization projects. We seem to be at a tipping point in terms of everyone doing it, wanting to do it, or wanting to do even more. ... We see virtualization being driven more as tactical or specific types of IT projects.

It's not uncommon to see customers starting out, either to just reduce costs, to improve the efficiency in utilization of the assets they have, or using virtualization to address the issues they might have with energy cost, energy capacity or sometimes even space capacity in the data center. But, it's very much focused around IT projects and IT benefits.

The interesting thing is that as customers get engaged in these projects, their eyes start to open up in terms of what else they can do with virtualization. For customers who've already done some virtualization work, they realize their interesting manageability and flexibility options for IT. "I can provision servers or server assets more quickly. I can be a little more responsive to the needs of the business. I can do things a little more quickly than I could before." And, those clearly have benefits to IT with the right value to the business.

Then, they start to see that there are interesting benefits around availability, being able to reduce or eliminate planned downtime, and also to respond much more quickly and expeditiously to unplanned downtime. That then lends itself to the conversation around disaster recovery, and into business continuity, if not continuous computing and disaster tolerance.

It's a very interesting evolution of things with increasing value to the business, but it's very much stepwise, and today tends to be focused around IT benefits. We think that's kind of missing the opportunity. ... The real business value to virtualization comes in many other areas that are much more critically important to the business.

One of the first is having an IT organization that is able to respond to dynamically changing needs in real-time, increasing demands for particular applications or business services, being able to throw additional capacity very quickly where it's needed, whether that's driven by seasonal factors or whether it's driven by just systemic growth in the business.

We see people looking at virtualization to improve the organization's ability to roll out new applications in business services much more quickly. We also see that they're gaining some real value in terms of agility and flexibility in having an IT organization that can be highly responsive to whatever is going on in the business, short term and long term.

Maximizing Value to the Business

Bennett: Yes, we see both pitfalls, i.e., problems that arise from not taking a comprehensive approach, and we see missed opportunities, which is probably the bigger loss for an organization. They could see what the potential of virtualization was, but they weren't able to realize it, because their implementation path didn't take into account everything they had to in order to be successful.

This is where we introduce the idea of rethinking virtualization, and we describe it as rethinking virtualization in business terms. It means looking at maximizing your business impact first by taking a business view of virtualization. Then, it maximizes the IT impact by taking a comprehensive view of virtualization in the data center. Then, it maximizes the value to the organization by leveraging virtualization for client implementations, where it makes sense.

But, it's always driven from a business perspective -- what is the benefit to the business, both quantitative and qualitative -- and then drilling down. ... I want to be able to drill down from the business processes and the business service management and automation tools into the infrastructure management, which in turn drills down into the infrastructure itself.

Is the infrastructure designed to be run and operated in a virtualized environment? Is it designed to be managed from an energy control point of view, for example? Is it designed to be able to move virtual resources from one physical server to another, without requiring an army of people?

Integration Is Key

Bennett: Part of the onus is on HP in this case to make sure that we're integrating and implementing support for virtualization into all of the components in the data center, so that it works and we can take advantage of it. But, it's up to the customer also to take this business and data center view of virtualization and look at it from an integration point of view.

If you do virtualization as point projects, what we've seen is that you end up with management tools and processes that are outside of the domain of the historical investments you've made. ... We see virtual environments that are disconnected from the insight and controls and governance and policy procedures put in for IT. This means that if something happens at a business-services level, you don't quite know how to go about fixing it, because you can't locate it.

That's why you really want to take this integrated view from a business-service's point of view, from an infrastructure and infrastructure management point of view, and also in terms of your client architectures.

Reversing the Budget Ratio

Bennett: Enterprises can lower the cost of IT operations implicitly by reducing the complexity of it and explicitly by having very standardized and simple procedures covering virtual and physical resources, which in conjunction with the other cost savings, frees up people to work on other projects and activities. Those all also contribute to reduce costs for the business, although they are secondary effects in many cases.

We see customers being able to improve the quality of service. They're able to virtually eliminate unplanned downtime, especially where it's associated with the base hardware or with the operating environments themselves. They're able to reduce unplanned downtime, because if you have an incident, you are not stuck to a particular server and trying to get it back up and running. You can restart the image on another device, on another virtual machine, restore those services, and then you have the time to deal with the diagnosis and repair at your convenience. It's a much saner environment for IT.

We see a large number of customers spending less than 30 percent of their IT budget on business priorities and growth initiatives, and 70 percent or more on management and maintenance. With virtualization and with these broader transformational initiatives, you can really flip the ratio around.


Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.


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