Spiralling out of control

The hype around virtualisation continues to build, but is it really as successful in the Middle East as vendors claim? Imthishan Giado looks at the state of the market.

Tags: Alpha DataExtreme Networks IncorporationProCurveUnited Arab Emirates
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Spiralling out of control To be very frank, I don’t think today that there are enough resources in the market capable of planning, designing and managing virtualised networks, says HP’s Al Shimy. (ITP Images)
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  July 14, 2010 Network Middle East Logo

For Guha, his main issue is principally at the design stage, when the decision about which applications to virtualise needs to be taken – and when in doubt, he prefers to be cautious: “The challenge for us is identifying the applications which could be virtualised without taking business risks. Most of these applications are business critical and if I am not sure, I would take a pessimistic stance rather than going very aggressive on virtualisation.”

Server sprawl

One of the major selling points of the virtualisation movement has been the ability to cut down on the amount of physical hardware, an aspect that has many IT managers looking forward to mothballing their servers. Unfortunately, in their rush to create virtual equivalents, many go overboard – leading to an unmanageable situation.

Gigi George, business unit head of value for enterprise computing systems at integrator Alpha Data, explains how server sprawl happens and how to combat it: “There are quite a few customers who have server sprawl as we say. They have individual servers to run individual applications – but each server is being used at only 20% or 30% of its potential.

“For example, we offer capacity planning as a service to our customers – it allows you to exactly know how you want to size the machines and which ones you want to use virtualisation on, which apps you actually want to move there and so on. Initially it was not a planned approach but that’s all changing now. People are more organised in the methods they are using,” he continues.

As one of the region’s leading integrators, Alpha Data has worked in a number of virtualisation cases already and  the cost savings are not insignificant.

“You reduce your management costs when you go for virtualisation. Instead of having to manage 10 or 15 servers, you’re actually only managing four or five servers in smaller environments. In larger environments for example, we did virtualisation in a bank where we reduced the number of servers from 180 to 60. That is a major saving both in terms of management time. There are also overheads like power and cooling when you have so many servers in the datacentre. When you reduce that by one third, there’s a huge saving,” he says.

Server disposal is another area which is often greatly misunderstood, he says. Most enterprises rarely retire equipment prematurely which has been made redundant by virtualisation, preferring to redistribute them.

“If you have, say, 180 servers, many of them will have been purchased at different points and times. They could be older generation servers, some of them might not be as powerful. Those will typically get reassigned to functions which don’t need so much performance, for example. Those which are out of warranty will be completely removed from the datacentre,” he confirms.

No time like the present

While the pace of virtualisation may have slowed, there’s little doubt that it will eventually become a common factor in RFPs across the region in years to come. The main stumbling blocks at the moment appear to be the same things that dog any emerging technology: cost, experience and seeing it through to completion.

ProCurve’s Al Shimy remains particularly upbeat: “If I am look at the RFPs we get from customers today, at least 80%-90% of the customers are asking for virtualisation. I would go for 100% particularly if you’re talking about a greenfield customer. IT managers want to get more features, for less money. Virtualisation is the right answer for that.

“Customers need to be clear about their business requirements and the translation of that into the planning and design phase. Secondly, we need to be proactive and give the right attention of the consultancy part of the project. We need to make sure that they have the right skills to be able to manage the virtual network. Third, they shouldn’t allow everyone to come every other day with a new request to add a virtual component to the network unless it is already approved,” he concludes.

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