Virtual Lab Managers Pave Path To Cloud - InformationWeek

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Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Virtual Lab Managers Pave Path To Cloud

I've tried to make this point before: The path to the cloud lies through the virtualization of your own data center infrastructure. The two things are intertwined. And just when I'm wondering how to get the point across again, along comes a "snapshot" from Voke Research to clinch the case.

I've tried to make this point before: The path to the cloud lies through the virtualization of your own data center infrastructure. The two things are intertwined. And just when I'm wondering how to get the point across again, along comes a "snapshot" from Voke Research to clinch the case.Theresa Lanowitz, founder of voke Inc., a market researcher, and voke analyst Lisa Dronzek made a snapshot of 100 users of virtual lab management software between August and February through phone and online interviews and came up with some specifics that flow from adoption of virtual lab management applications. In addition, they found that the benefits of consolidating servers under hypervisors is well known, but "virtual lab management technology and its benefits are less visible and less public." That's because selling a hypervisor and its operating environment is clearly in the sphere that VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoft care about; virtual lab management, not as much so. While the primary vendors have their own offerings, first in the lab management field were third parties, such as Surgient, founded in 2003; Akimbi, acquired by VMware in 2006; and Skytap, founded in 2006. VMLogix wasn't far behind, launching VMLgix LabManager in July 2007.

But adopting lab management software is a change that has far reaching implications. It's the system that lets you set up a virtual machine provisioning system, determine what types of virtual machines are to be created, then allows end users to commission them themselves. Usually a charge-back system is included. The software gets its name from a primary user, the software development team that needs a lab of servers on which to test their new system.

But as the foregoing functions indicate, once you've got lab management installed, the potential end users may extend far beyond the development team. And once you're practiced at setting up virtual machines and allowing end users to activate them, you're well on your way to cloud computing. The cloud, after all, is as much about end user enabling as it is new technology, something some of its most dense critics cannot grasp.

Some specifics of what they found:

In terms of physical servers, 23% of lab management software users eliminated 1-9 machines; 31% eliminated 10-19 physical machines; another 31% eliminated 20-150 machines; 15% eliminated 151-500 machines. The average implementer eliminated an average 101 physical servers.

Lab management software reduces the total software servers, for reasons that weren't spelled out in the March 22 report. More than one software server often resides on one physical machine. If the lab manager for the development team doesn't need to keep one copy of every environment running, then the total number of servers, both physical and software, can be reduced. Virtualization allows that by storing a server not needed with the current project and activating it again off of disk, when it's needed. Of those surveyed, 34% said they reduced servers by 1-9 units; 33% said they eliminated 10-19 servers; 25% said 20-150 servers; and 8% said 151-500 servers. The average implementer eliminated 57 servers.

The resulting return on investment was dramatic: 27% said they saved between $100,000 and $199,000; 37% saved between $200,000 and $499,000; 18% saved $500,000 to $999,000; 9% saved $1 million to $6 million; and another 9% saved more than $6 million.

The value is obtained by "the reduction of physical environments, immediate access to needed environments through rapid provisioning, the reduction of tactical work (such as procuring and assembling a physical server), and the increase in important strategic work…" the report said.

"The technology is strategic, empowering and not difficult to adopt and implement," the report concludes. And I would add, it positions the organization to make a transformation, when it is ready to, to execute part of its operations in the on-premises data center and part in the external, public cloud.

An executive summary of the report is available on the vokeInc. site.

Data centers have never been more strategic. But growing demands, flat budgets, and emerging technologies have IT teams sweating. That story and more in our March 22 all-digital issue. Download it now. (Registration required.)

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