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Network World - As server virtualization projects gain scale and strategic value, enterprise IT managers must move quickly beyond tactical approaches to achieve best results.
Consider these Gartner forecasts: More than 4 million virtual machines will be installed on x86 servers by 2009, and the number of virtualized desktops could grow from less than 5 million in 2007 to 660 million by 2011. The popularity of virtualizing x86 server and desktop resources has many enterprise IT managers reassessing ways to update already virtualized network and storage resources, too.
Virtualization's impact will spread beyond technology changes to operational upheaval. Not only must enterprise IT executives move from a tactical to a strategic mindset but they also must shift their thinking and adjust their processes from purely physical to virtual.
"Enterprise IT managers are going to have to start thinking virtual first and learn how to make the case for virtualization across IT disciplines," says James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "This will demand they change processes. Technologies can help, but if managers don't update their best practices to handle virtual environments, nothing will get easier.
Here enterprise IT managers and industry watchers share best practices they say will help companies seamlessly grow from 30 to 3,000 virtual machines without worry.
1. Approach virtualization holistically
Companies considering standardizing best practices for x86-based server virtualization should think about how they plan to incorporate desktop, application, storage and network virtualization in the future.
IT has long suffered from a silo mentality, with technology expertise living in closed clusters. The rapid adoption of virtualization could exacerbate already strained communications among such IT domains as server, network, storage, security and applications.
"This wave of virtualization has started with one-off gains, but to approach the technology strategically, IT managers need to look to the technology as achieving more than one goal across more than one IT group," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates.
To do that, an organization's virtualization advocates should champion the technology by initiating discussions among various IT groups and approaching vendors with a broad set of requirements that address short- and long-term goals. Vendors with technologies in multiple areas, such as servers and desktops, or with partnerships across IT domains could help IT managers better design their virtualization-adoption road maps. More important, however, is preventing virtualization implementations from creating more problems via poor communications or antiquated organizational charts, industry watchers say.
"With ITIL and other best-practice frameworks, IT has become better at reaching out to other groups, but the speed at which things change in a virtual environment could hinder that progress," says Jasmine Noel, a principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates. "IT's job is to evolve with the technology and adjust its best practices, such as change management, to new technologies like virtualization."