VMWare: A Key to Reduce Hardware Dependency

Justin Giardina, CTO, iland Internet Solutions
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Justin Giardina, CTO, iland Internet Solutions

In the time I have led technology organizations, the very nature of that function has transformed. At the start of my career, there was hardware, usually dedicated to a single system or application. VMware changed that over a decade ago, and we started decoupling hardware from applications. Now, even the hardware is being abstracted away into the cloud.

Perhaps because I loved that hardware–or perhaps because I enjoy the transformations that continue to happen at the hypervisor and systems level, I now find myself running eight global data centers for a cloud vendor, iland. Therefore, while our customers are touching fewer and fewer cables, we are doing more and more of that work.

From this vantage point, there are some fascinating developments underway.

Pushing Technology Limits

Every day, I speak with customers who are pushing the envelope. They are looking for new ways to use the data they have, new types of data to collect, and new services to bring to their own customers.

Technology has become central to businesses, which, in the past, had not been data-driven:

• Power companies now rely on GPS and sensor systems to recover from massive storms–and even the emergency communications system is IP-telephony-based
• Health records are aggregated, analyzed, and secured digitally, enabling both better individual patient outcomes and stronger research into cures and treatments
• Political policy data is protected and stored electronically, making the library of statistics, analysis and historical documents easily available to present policymakers

 ​It is time to truly stop dealing with the hardware 

Every day, I speak with CTOs of companies that are using the power of technology to shift the pace and operations of their companies, whether by more efficiently moving goods or more creatively delivering services. It is refreshing to see this change starting with the top-level dreams of business and IT leaders and becoming real with the support of the newest hypervisor and cloud technologies.

Bundle more in

In order to focus technology strategy on these business-level initiatives, IT leaders have had to take a step away from the never-ending patching and upgrading and triaging of day-to-day IT life. One way that has happened is by selecting infrastructure options where more and more of the drudgery and minutiae is bundled in.

Whether it is security features, virtualized networking, compliance reporting or automated backups, the more rote, mechanical components are baked into the hypervisor and platform, on-premise, or into the cloud, off-premise, the better. One of the benefits of mass virtualization and, largely, standardization on the VMware platform, is the rationalization of a ridiculously diverse set of systems. With that consistency comes greater automation and less day-to-day outlier management.

For service providers like us, this means taking the best advantage of the technologies best of breed vendors provide, and knitting it together in a way that removes administrative burden from our customers. After all, they are paying for more than just off-site hardware–they are paying for a platform, with service.

The fast path to efficiency

One sticky item in the cloud and virtualization space remains the exceptions. Rarely do we see a 100 percent virtualized customer, and that last 3 to 5 percent of systems often represent the most tenacious in the lot.

Therefore, the challenge for today’s technologists is two-fold. First, become skilled enough to manage on- and off-premise systems on your primary platform. For many, that is the VMware platform, both in-house and in the cloud. The consistency between both environments means that performance metrics, capacity needs, and VM configurations are identical–smoothing migrations and lowering administrative burden. Cloud does not preclude IT administrators being skilled VMware administrators as well.

Second, handle the exceptional systems with as much efficiency as possible. Sometimes, there will be options to move those systems, as physical or co-located systems, into the cloud. In other cases, IT will simply have to wait patiently for a new software platform with a reasonable migration plan.

Push away the hardware

While cloud and VMware administrators must maintain skill in management above the hypervisor, cloud itself should remove hardware burden–from the servers to the storage and the network.

IT should be making cloud choices that do remove the burden of hardware management–or even knowledge –from the users. Systems should not have to be re-started to find a less cluttered, noisy environment. Customers should not have to know the GHz of the underlying servers. Details on compliance of the actual data centers should be freely and easily collected for audits. In short,–it is time to truly stop dealing with the hardware.

Now that the lion’s share of the systems are virtualized in the data center, options open up for IT to focus its efforts on more strategic project and to outsource even more of the banal hardware management. The balance is in maintaining enough expertise to competently and efficiently manage the cloud while trusting a provider to do the rest. In addition, with the time that frees up–leveraging these new options to push forward new business initiatives that were stretch goals or pipe dreams in the past.

Simplifying the mundane is great–but when the slack in the system is put towards growth, experimentation, and innovation, the returns become extraordinary.