According to Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman, virtualization will fundamentally change the relationship IT has with other parts of the business. During his presentation, Virtualization Changes Virtually Everything, at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008, Bittman said this change would manifest itself in four ways—services replace equipment, agility, funding mechanisms, and sourcing. I agree with Bittman's overall analysis, but believe there are a few caveats and additional considerations IT organizations need to consider. I'll walk through each of Bittman's changes and give you my take.
Services replace equipment
As virtualization abstracts the physical equipment required to run specific applications Bittman contends, IT's relationship with business shifts from installing and managing hardware to providing services. IT customers should focus on service levels and results not physical equipment. IT will manage pools of storage, server capacity, and the like.
According to Bittman, "the ability to deploy capacity and server images virtually increases speed of deployment by a factor of approximately 30." A two-month deployment time could be cut to two days. As time-to-deploy drops, demand increases. "Gartner clients that have virtualized heavily," Bittman wrote in his report, "also report that customer demand roughly doubles when speed of deployment becomes a nonissue."
As speed of deployment is dramatically reduced, Bittman believes IT departments must move to a chargeback accounting system. Without such a system, "demand could skyrocket and more low-priority workloads could be deployed that don't justify their costs." "We should be charging based on consumption," Bittman said, "and not some fixed asset."
Because virtualization allows IT to create an abstraction layer between the service and the systems required to provided that service, IT has greater flexibility in choosing the source for that service. In some cases, it may make sense to get commoditized functionality from a third party. For example, you might outsource your e-mail externally instead of spending the time to manage it internally.
As I wrote at the begging of this post, I agree with Bittman's assessments. Virtualization will significantly change how IT works and how it relates to other business units. But, I think most of the changes will be confined to enterprise IT for the next several years. That's not to say IT organizations in small and medium-size businesses won't virtualize and won't experience the above changes when they do. But, I don't think you'll be seeing chargebacks in small companies anytime soon.
I'm also skeptical at the speed with which companies will be willing to outsource key business processes, like e-mail. To be fair, Bittman explained that alternative sourcing isn't right for all services or companies. But, virtualization will give IT more choices about how they provide specific services.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.