The Volatility of Virtualization

Michael Vizard

There are two distinct camps emerging within the ranks of IT when it comes to managing virtual machines and the physical servers they run on.

The first camp is dominated by all the folks that jumped early on the virtualization bandwagon. Virtualization is complex to manage and, at least in the early stages of adoption, there has been a lot of call for virtualization specialists. It doesn't hurt that IT folks trained in all things virtualization have been able to command a premium for their skills.

The second camp consists of all the people that manage the physical server infrastructure. Many of them have been doing this for years, but for one reason or another have not become certified virtualization specialists.

It's not uncommon for these two groups to be at odds with each other. Virtual machines require a lot of memory to really run effectively and the people that run the physical servers don't always appreciate incessant demands for more performance from people managing the virtual machine software.

And just to add a little more tension into the environment, the next generation of virtual machines is making it a whole lot easier to dynamically move application workloads across multiple physical servers. So not only do we now have as many as 10 virtual servers where we use to have only one physical server, we're also not 100 percent sure what workloads are running where at any given time.

Now if we were completely honest, we would have to admit that we were not sure what business processes were associated with what applications on specific physical servers before the advent of virtualization. Now it's becoming a lot more obvious to everybody else.

Before this situation gets any more out of control, IT organizations might consider doing themselves a favor about once and for all mapping all the dependencies in their enterprise systems. There are a number of tools, such as Hewlett-Packard's Discovery and Dependency Mapping software, to help sort this all out. But once those dependencies are identified, it's going to become apparent that the people managing the virtual machines and physical servers are going to need to come together again as a single unified group.

Virtualization requires new skill sets, so it's only natural that a separate class of IT specialists would arise to manage it. But as we go forward, it's also clear that this is only a moment in time. Long term, the management of virtual machines and the physical systems they run on is a single integrated task. Just ask any IT person working outside of Fortune 1000 companies that don't have the luxury of creating different classes of IT specialists.

In these tough economic times, there's really no excuse for having people working at cross-purposes. It's only a matter of time before virtual and physical management tools converge into a single integrated platform. And once that happens, responsibilities in the IT department are going to converge again as well.

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