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Is Your IT Still a Cost Center?

By Ganesh Mahabala on Mar 15, 2009
Ganesh Mahabala About the author

Ganesh Mahabala

Ganesh Mahabala is Regional Director, India & SAARC, VMware

The IT department is always referred to as a cost center. But what if that could be changed?

Most of the time IT requests more budgets for every business change that is made. I am sure you would be nodding your head in agreement, if I said you need more servers to handle increased workloads; You are already running at nearly 100 percent of your data center power and space capacity and need more to expand; you need to procure servers to cater to your developers’ demands and you need additional set of hardware for the new project that your organization is planning. In a nutshell, your data center is rigid to change to business requirement and it demands capital for every change desired. This arises from the traditional computing paradigm of one application per server. This is an inefficient way of computing and leads to server sprawl. Virtualization breaks this barrier and represents the best solution for consolidating servers.

What electronic money does to banking, virtualization does to servers. Virtualization converts a physical server into a virtual machine and brings a whole new level of flexibility and efficiency to your data center. It behaves like an operating system for the data center and instead of harnessing power of a single server, it treats all virtualized servers in the data center as a pool of resources.

Let me surprise you. Server utilization before virtualization on average is not more than 3 percent to 5 percent. If that didn’t surprise you this would — when you virtualize, the utilization rate goes north not by a few notches, but to a whooping 50–80 percent. With virtualization, you have an environment that better utilizes your servers and, at the same time, treats the data center resources as a single resource pool. Now nothing stops you from slicing the server resources to the exact requirement of your applications.

This characteristic of virtualization helps in server consolidation. For example, virtualization provides on an average a consolidation ratio of 10:1; that is one physical server after virtualization for every 10 physical servers before virtualization. This high server consolidation has a domino effect on the data center ecosystem — it requires fewer networking components such as switches and cables, power whips, UPS, etc.

Let’s change gears here. Besides the impressive ROI on server consolidation, virtualization gives business continuity a new meaning. Think about implementing resiliency in the physical environment. It requires expensive and complex solutions of high availability such as clustering and exact hardware at different sites for replicating. Even then, with these huge investments, it’s unpredictable as it’s untested. On the other hand, in the virtual world, planned downtime becomes a term of yesterday. When you want to update or patch your virtualized server all you do is VMotion the virtual machines from one virtualized server to another in the cluster. This ensures that no transaction is lost in this process and your physical server is free to be managed, without affecting any application performance or availability. Unplanned downtime apparently becomes a rarity and just in case a server fails, virtual machines restart on the other hosts.So all the applications in the virtual machines are now protected for a fraction of cost without any complexities.

Server provisioning on the other hand is just like creating another new file. Gone are the days when it would take months or weeks to provision a new server. And it doesn’t cost a penny provisioning another server till you have sufficient compute resources.

Eventually virtualization frees a whole bunch of servers in your datacenter, by reducing power, cooling, and the overall cost of running the datacenter. So what are you waiting for? Move to the virtual world, convert your IT setup to a value center from a cost center and contribute to the growth of your organization.

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