Signs Your SMB Is Not Ready for Virtualization

Paul Mah

Perhaps you just joined the SMB that you are now in, or the CEO was adamant about not being early adopters in the past. But whatever the case, you have heard all about virtualization, and have long dreamed about implementing it in your organization. Now, the decision to adopt virtualization is suddenly made available to you. Should you go ahead?


With so much information available on the advantages of virtualization, I thought it'd be fun to highlight some of the reasons not to go for it. So what are some signs that your small or medium-sized business is not ready for virtualization?


The only motivation is to save money


You've heard all about how virtualization will save your company tons of money in servers you don't have to buy. Not to mention the reduced electrical bill from fewer servers and the requisite air-conditioning. However, if your company is already in some sort of financial bind due to the current soft economy, trying to convert from your legacy infrastructure to a virtualized one now would be a gross mistake.


The reason is simple: You will need to first acquire those new machines that you will need to run all the older ones under. Yes, it is true that you will be paying less in terms of absolute hardware. Those higher-end machines and SAN hardware are going to cost you, however, and cost you today. In a nutshell, the ROI for virtualization is generally calculated over years, not months.


The intention is to downsize the IT team


I call this particular reason "Excuse to save money, version 2.0." If you think that the simple act of reducing 30 servers to five or six means that you can fire half the server administrator team, think again.


A large bulk of the work done by any IT team involves mundane tasks such as maintaining security patches, monitoring for database errors or other housekeeping tasks. Virtualized or not, the amount of such activities that needs to be attended to remains the same. In fact, it might actually increase in the short term as staffers take some time to get accustomed to the slightly different ways to work with the newly virtualized infrastructure, or deal with quirks inherent to your hypervisor of choice.


What I mean to say is: If you want to save money, there are other ways to do so. In fact, I just posted Leverage the Economic Downturn to Reduce Your Costs yesterday, so take a look.


There is a poor track record of managing IT


If the CIO or Head of IT is always being overridden by the other C-level executives when it comes to IT policies and requisition requests, then virtualization will just worsen such problems. You see, the convenience of virtualization will largely eliminate traditional constraints imposed by budgetary limitations and unavoidable lead times to adding new hardware.


In an SMB with poor management of IT, it is highly likely that the number of virtualized servers will balloon completely out of control - to disastrous consequences.


The majority of your server load comes from a few applications


One key advantage of virtualization is the ability to eke out every ounce of performance from an otherwise idle processor. If the bulk of your processing comes from a few applications that almost always run at full utilization, then the advantage of virtualization is sharply reduced.


In fact, the overhead consumed by the hypervisor could actually reduce the performance of your software. When that happens, it makes more sense to run your application without virtualization, relying instead on disk imaging and load-balancing methods to gain disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities.


In fact, there are other problems with virtualization that are as yet unresolved. I'll be writing about them in my next blog. In the meantime, feel free to chip in with your comments.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 31, 2009 9:10 AM Moe Schwartz Moe Schwartz  says:

Well I am confused...when you talk about SMB virtualization you need to talk about SaaS. The motiviation to save money, the intention is to downsize the IT team, a poor track record of managing IT, are all very real concerns and goals that SMBs need to address in this economy.

The motiviation to save money: I can tell you firsthand that by moving some of our critical apoplications to the cloud we eliminated a lot of servers and related costs.

Downsize the IT team: You bet, no more servers and apps to manage.

A poor track record of managing IT, gone....as our application provider manages the whole thing.

And believe me with industry leaders like Microsoft, IBM-ISS, Oracle and many others getting ioto  the SaaS delivery business, SMBs can acheive all these goals withot worry for a fraction of the cost of virtualization.

Jul 31, 2009 4:43 PM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Moe Schwartz

I do agree that the industry is moving towards SaaS at the moment, which generally entails running applications in the Clouds.  Obviously, the majority of my points will not apply in that context.

In this case though, I'm focusing very much on virtualization specifically in the context an SMB consolidating existing servers that are hosted in their datacenter onto fewer machines, highlighting the potential pitfalls.

Aug 3, 2009 5:56 PM MoeWestcon MoeWestcon  says: in response to Paul Mah

With today's business climate what is it for SMBs, I don't see them spending on virtualization even in the larger SMB market. It is a large investment and the up front costs are prohibitive. Most VARs selling virtualization specialize in enterprise data center deployments, the vendors channel programs for virtualization (servers and software) make it hard for resellers specializing in SMB to become authorized to sell virtualization. And a lot of SMBs will not pay the price these specialized VARS are asking. Until there are SMB virtualization solutions (appliances) readily available and VARs that understand SMB, acceptance of this technology will continue to stay low in SMB.


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