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Winning the last 5%: VMware makes the business case for virtualization

VMware has declared its strategy to reach the 'last 5% of unvirtualized servers.' But to achieve 100% virtualization, VMware has to make the business case for virtualization to company holdouts.

In its quest for 100% virtualization, VMware wants to reach the last 5% of servers it claims are not yet virtualized in companies that already have a virtualization-first policy, the company said at a recent user group meeting in New England.

Mark Brunstad, a VMware technical trainer and course developer, said these servers are commonly resource-intensive servers, such as online transaction processing systems, and very large or mission-critical databases.

Part of VMware's strategy to claim the last 5% involves the additional computing power available in vSphere 4.0 compared with VMware ESX 3.5. The other lies in uncovering what the obstacles are to virtualizing servers -- the goal of the "Roundtable on roadblocks to 100% virtualization" break-out session -- and addressing them.

There's a big difference between 'We know we're saving money' and 'We think we're saving money.'
Mark Brunstad
Technical trainer and course developerVMware, Inc.
From a management perspective, aiming for 100% virtualization can make sense. Brunstad argued that if your infrastructure isn't 100% virtualized, you cannot exploit internal cloud computing and you must maintain two sets of management procedures. Only servers that are easier to virtualize reap the benefits of virtualization-related management technologies such as VMware's Site Recovery Manager, Distributed Resource Scheduler and High Availability.

Barriers to virtualization adoption
Brunstad said VMware administrators at other user groups reported many reasons for not being able to achieve 100% virtualization. Support issues and lack of virtualization expertise were the two underlying themes.

VMware technical know-how or training issues that prevented virtualization adoption include the following:

  • failed first-time virtualization attempts;
  • a mandate from management to deploy virtualization on which system administrators cannot execute;
  • subtleties or difficulties in converting servers, such as hardware dependencies straining actual implementation and TCO/ROI;
  • a lack of aggressiveness enough with consolidation ratios and a failure to reach a satisfactory ROI;
  • attempting to virtualize without corporate sponsorship; and
  • differences between system, storage and networking management with virtual machines and those with physical management.

Roundtable participants added two more support issues to the list: Apple OS support by VMware and the inability to convert older OSes to virtual machines with VMware Converter.

One attendee suggested including VMware Certified Professional (VCP) training with larger VMware license sales to solve the technical know-how issue. Brunstad said VMware employees have debated the idea and decided against it for the time being. However, VMware now offers the four-day VCP training course online to help ease access to training, he said.

Brunstad added that VMware has its own department devoted to working with independent software vendors that do not yet support VMware virtualization.

New ROI calculator to demonstrate backward- and forward-looking ROI
While vSphere 4.0 offers twice the number of virtual processors, 2.5 more virtual network interface cards (NICs), four times the memory, three times the network throughput and three times the I/O per second over VMware Infrastructure 3, getting the computing power requires an upgrade.

The bottom-line question, then, is how to convince upper management to purchase vSphere 4.0 licenses to virtualize servers that previously weren't candidates because of resource requirements.

VMware has plans to create more sophisticated online ROI calculation tools to analyze a data center's existing environment and calculate ROI based on virtualization deployment and compare the costs of maintaining resource-heavy servers as physical servers with virtualizing them instead.

"After the initial virtualization efforts are over, [system administrators] are not policing metrics to figure out the actual ROI," Brunstad said. "There's a big difference between 'We know we're saving money' and 'We think we're saving money.'"

Calculating the ROI of virtualization efforts, combined with increased independent software vendor support, may help get the last 5% of servers virtualized. But lack of VMware expertise among system, network and storage administrators remains a caveat to successful enterprise adoption.

Hannah Drake is the site editor of Write to her at

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