Virtualisation faces resistance from wary users

It sounds great, but ICT staff may not want to lose control of physical servers. Patrick Thibodeau reports

Politics was one of the topics at VMware’s recent VMworld user conference, but the discussions had nothing to do with the mid-term elections in the US earlier this month. Instead, those on hand for the conference talked about the political maneuvering sometimes needed to sell a technology that can unsettle the balance of power in an ICT department.

Deploying a virtualisation project means internal business customers lose ownership of a particular server, as servers are moved to a shared environment — something that can make it difficult for ICT managers to sell virtualisation to their users.

But there may be resistance among tech staffers as well, particularly if someone on the business-side is championing the idea.

Concerns such as these prompted Larry Speights, a gas industry employee at a major company, to attend a session at VMworld devoted to the organisational challenges of virtualisation deployments. Speights is working as a technical advisor on a VMware implementation, a new technology for his company.

Control of server resources is an issue, he says. “The various owners of these systems say, ‘It’s my system and when it is virtualised it’s not my system any more, it is running shared with everyone else,’” he says.

ICT staff may feel threatened because the push for virtualisation “is not going through their approval process”, says Brad Wagner, a technical lead for platform services at forest products maker Georgia Pacific. “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 analytics software vendor Fair Isaac, have each been on VMware systems for about three years and were on a panel at the conference sharing strategies for selling virtualisation internally and working through resistance.

The technical side of a business may be afraid of virtualisation because of “a lack of familiarity with the technology”, Tierney says. “They see something different and don’t want to deal with it.”

Tierney says his company turned to virtualisation to help manage server growth. But the change involved a lot of work, including preparation of what he describes as an elaborate presentation for the company. One lesson learned, he says, was the need for tighter integration with ICT workers involved in storage and networking. That’s because VMware deployments can have an impact on those systems as well.

What often sells business managers on virtualisation is the reduction in what business units pay for ICT services. Virtualisation can cut hardware and management costs — savings that can be passed along, users say.

But once virtualisation has been deployed, Tierney recommends that companies not draw distinctions between their physical and virtual servers.

“We wanted everybody to treat them (virtualised servers) like regular servers,” says Tierney. “In the beginning, we were having some issues with people accepting virtualisation and what it meant for them.”

As a result, Fair Isaac found it easier to just provide the server without “specifying whether it’s physical or virtual”, he says.

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