Virtualizing operating systems can be a great way to get your team mobile, while putting fears about downtime or resource availability to rest. A recent white paper submitted by researchers to TechRepublic makes a number of useful suggestions as to how you can cost effectively optimize your cloud strategy to maximum effect. It’s a must-read for any CIO or IT manager looking into cloud management packages from branded providers. In this article, we’ll summarize their suggestions and outline what you really need to know.
Why prioritize OS virtualization?
Virtualization offers numerous benefits that are difficult or impossible to achieve any other way:
- Agility. Roll out changes to your entire software library in minutes, not days. Fine-tune your system by observing user behavior and then adapt either on-the-fly, or after extensive analysis. Virtualization will make your IT network more responsive to change and more skilled in response.
- Utilization. Demand for services naturally follows a peak and trough pattern. Even in global organizations, there are periods of time when server resources are in heavy demand; conversely the space reserved for dealing with this also often lies unused. Virtualization will allow you to mete out resources in a more intelligent manner, or according to a more purposeful strategy.
- Availability. Pursuing third-party virtualization services from established cloud management providers frees up your IT staff to serve your business more creatively. By removing the direct responsibility for individual server performance and network management, you IT team will be able to focus on the future, rather than fixing the problems of the past.
- Continuity. Major software redesigns are disruptive and – in productivity terms –expensive. Allowing for a more iterative rollout of incremental updates, virtualization means your users will be readily familiar with the tools of their trade and never caught out by sudden changes implemented by external forces.
- Reduced cost. In using virtualization to cut spare resource availability, significant savings can be found across utilities (including electricity and heating), storage (reduced ‘ballast’ hard drive space) and personnel expenditures.
How to optimize your OS virtualization
- Monitor & manage. Most cloud management providers will offer some sort of dashboard via which your IT team can instantly access high-level or detailed information about the systems running. Making sure your IT staff is comfortable with the interfaces, as well as the networking theory behind them, will pay serious dividends.
- Automate. Because virtualization is so complex, many subroutines or sub procedures can and should be automated. This may require the separation of low-return, computationally complex tasks (such as user administration) that must be dealt with by a human operator, and mission-critical but computationally straightforward tasks (such as effective backup protocols) that can be left in the care of the system itself. Automation of critical tasks should only take place when you trust the system your IT staff has built.
- Train your team. Training will not only increase the likelihood of successful IT operations (those cloud computing projects that dedicated over 6% of budget to training were found by the IDC to be three times more likely to meet or exceed business objectives), but it will empower your IT staff to utilize new technologies in innovative and financially beneficial new ways.
- Test everything. Deploying virtualization is not the end of the process. Because the technologies are changing rapidly – more rapidly than any other business technology ever has – rigorous and strategic analysis of impact is integral to continued good performance. Test your components, your systems and your user experience. Solicit feedback. Subject your systems to unusual situations and evaluate the outcomes. Then implement changes rapidly, and test again.