When California State University East Bay had a power crisis in its data center, it called upon someone with 'street credibility' to help implement the fix. Rich Avila had close relationships with the university's departments because he'd worked as a consultant to CSUEB prior to joining the university as an employee.
University department heads, like lines of business leaders, often have the latitude to make capital acquisitions to support new applications. This was the case at CSUEB, and 'server creep' was in full swing at the university. The result: server utilization was less than 10% and storage utilization on direct attached and SAN storage ranged from 10-15%. These are clearly unacceptable metrics, even in good times.
The Wikibon community heard a similar story from BT's Michael Crader last year. Crader, like Avila, used both the powers of persuasion and 'tough love' to combat the friction of migrating physical servers to virtual environments. The formula basically came down to four components:
- Make a strong business case to management that the benefits of virtualization can attack waste and outweigh the drawbacks-- both perceived and real;
- Include storage virtualization in the mix;
- Set hard dates for the cut-over from physical to virtual;
- Communicate, communicate, communicate with the lines of business.
Both organizations we've cited here, BT and CSUEB, have successfully virtulized severs and storage and navigated through political, performance, and other perceived landmines. While this approach did not negate the need to manage the challenges of virtualization (e.g. performance, backup, etc.), the organizations are clearly running more efficient IT with minimal business disruption.
Action Item: Organizations must anticipate the friction that will come about from initiating virtualization projects. Empower a project manager with established line-of-business relationships and a track record of success. Set goals and regularly communicate efficiency benefits (including greenness) which can turn resistance into support.