Virtualization Turns Up Political Heat for IT and Business Users

LOS ANGELES -- Politics was one of the hot topics at VMworld 2006, but the political talk had nothing to do with last week’s elections. Instead, it revolved around the internal issues faced by users of virtualization software, which can unsettle the balance of power within companies and their IT departments. Virtualization can cause business users to lose ownership of servers that are consolidated into shared systems, making it difficult for IT managers to sell the technology internally. There also may be resistance among IT staffers if the idea is championed by the business side or a deployment affects storage and networking teams in addition to server managers.

Political concerns such as those prompted Larry Speights to attend a VMworld session devoted to some of the organizational challenges posed by virtualization.

Control of server resources is a touchy issue for business units that have had their own systems, said Speights, a technical adviser on a VMware project at a petroleum company that he asked not be identified. “The various owners of these systems say, ‘It’s my system, and when it’s virtualized, it’s not my system anymore. It’s running shared with everyone else,’” he said.

IT staffers may feel threatened if the push for virtualization comes from the business side and “is not going through their approval process,” said Brad Wagner, a technical lead for platform services at Georgia Pacific Corp. in Atlanta. “It’s typically a bad thing when the executives agree to a technology and the technical people didn’t invent it there.”

Wagner and Gary Tierney, senior manager of technical services at Fair Isaac Corp. in Minneapolis, have each been running systems equipped with VMware’s software for about three years.

Tierney said he prepared an elaborate presentation about the technology for employees at Fair Isaac. But he learned for himself that IT workers from different functional areas needed to be more tightly integrated because of virtualization’s far-reaching effects.

What often sells business managers on virtualization is the promise of reduced IT costs through hardware and systems management savings. Tierney, though, recommended that IT managers shouldn’t make any distinctions between their physical and virtual servers with end users.

“In the beginning, we were having some issues with people accepting virtualization and what it meant for them,” Tierney said. Now, he said, IT staffers find it easier to just provide a server when users need one, without specifying whether it’s an actual or virtual system.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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