Where have all the virtualisation savings gone?

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Everybody is virtualising their infrastructure. Go to any gathering of IT professionals, and you’d be hard pressed to find an organisation that isn’t in the throws of a project.

Press a bit further and there is a wide disparity between those with a full blown virtualised infrastructure and those still tinkering in a test environment.

Probe further still and many of the early adopters are wondering why they haven’t saved more money.

The truth is that many of the savings associated with virtualisation are one off windfalls that do little to reduce your ongoing costs. You consolidate on x86 servers. You free up datacentre space, butthen what? OK you save on power costs – an ongoing reduction in operating expenditure, but you aer faced with the management costs of virtual server sprawl.

Well, Forrester Research have come up with some good advice for maximising your savings. If you are not saving enough money you are:

  • Not aggressive enough with the ratio of virtual machines to physical host. Some virtualization implementations fail to produce the expected savings because the cost per virtual machine (VM) is too high. This usually results from poor VM density and high hardware costs in shops that are too conservative with their deployments. For example, many companies break even with physical hardware after three VMs, but they only put a total of five onto a server capable of running 15 VMs.
  • Networked to an expensive Fibre Channel storage area network (FC SAN). If you want the flexibility to move VMs between different physical hosts for high availability or for load balancing, your physical hosts must be networked to shared storage. In the past, VMware only supported FC SANs. So while you were saving money consolidating physical servers you were also spending thousands of pounds per FC port to network your servers to storage.
  • Slow to update legacy IT processes. Once a server is virtualized, you have the option of managing it pretty much like a regular server or taking advantage of your new capabilities to streamline management tasks. Many companies decide not to rock the boat with overhauling their processes, and not surprisingly their ongoing management costs remain the same — with some one-time savings associated with the initial provisioning

Forrester gives a host of practical advice on how to get rond these problems. Even if industry best practice is beyond your organisation, it is good to know what can be achieved.