Opinion: Server virtualization opens door to smart planning

IT pros are virtualizing to address server sprawl and keep the energy wolves at bay

Years ago, I was actively involved with the Computer Measurement Group, an organization of IT professionals dedicated to the proposition that you can't manage what you can't measure. CMG was started when mainframes roamed the IT world and minding your p's and c's -- performance and capacity metrics -- equated directly to holding the line on capital and operational budgets.

Then came open systems. CMG membership peaked in the mid-1990s but has trended increasingly downward as applications have migrated away from the frame. IT professionals who were passionate about performance, who could do the math, were no longer appreciated. Heck, open systems was the land of cheap hardware. Performance? Shmoremance. If it runs slow, throw in more boxes.

Well CMGers, capacity planners and performance gurus, your day may dawn once again. Why? Two words: server virtualization.

There is some hard statistical data now surfacing that tells us basically what we already suspect -- that IT pros are virtualizing in order to make a U-turn on server sprawl and keep the energy wolves at bay. Therefore, the practice of just throwing hardware at problems will from this time forward be seen as counterproductive.

I predict? Well, I hope. I hope that IT pros are at least once again forced to prove that throwing more hardware at a problem will in fact make the problem go away. And I hope that in order to do that, they'll need hard data to back them up. And I hope that to get the hard data, they'll need the expertise of IT pros dedicated to the proposition that you can't manage a virtual server environment that you can't measure. Read a good book on queuing theory lately?

John Webster is the principal IT adviser for research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at jwebster@illuminata.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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