Before you virtualize, answer these questions
If it were that easy to virtualize a data centre, everyone would be doing it.
Okay, so it seems like everyone is doing it, but that's in part a reflection of the hype and hyperbole that surrounds this technology, as well as its relationship to other popular trends like cloud computing and service oriented architectures. Many people who have not virtualized are no doubt thinking about it, but many Canadian firms, particularly in the mid-market, are likely still in the planning stages.
That's one of the reasons IT World Canada recently partnered with Info-Tech Reseach to create a Virtualization Assessment Tool that our audience can use to optimize their planning process. Based on the best practices Info-Tech's analysts have identified over the course of the last few years, the tool consists of a short questionaire that takes about 10 minutes to complete. Based on your answers, the tool will tell you where your virtualization plans have hit the mark, where they fall short, and perhaps offer a reminder of things you haven't considered.
This tool is in some ways a departure for us. We've traditionally covered virtualization — as we have many other technologies — primarily by talking to and publishing interviews with Canadian IT professionals who have successfully used the products and services based on this technology to their advantage. We'll still do that, of course, but every single virtualizaiton early adopter we've talked to has stressed the need for a thorough assessment, either internally or through a consulting partner. This tool may not replace those activities, but we hope they will enhance or complement them. I'll be interested in any feedback users may have about the quality of the questions, the answers and the overall experience.
Last week I was at a conference where Strahan McCarten, director of product management, hosting and data services at Bell Canada, discussed the kind of case study many firms would like to emulate. He talked about Promutuel, an insurance firm that needed to move its data centre from Quebec City to Montreal. This would normally be a massive operation, but virtualization and a dedicated 200MB link between the old and new sites allowed the firm to shift over 12TB of data across 250 km in little more than 10 hours. Promutuel has gone from 300 servers to one mainframe, 20 Linux boxes and 30 Windows servers.
That's the kind of “after picture” most IT managers would want to see once they've completed a virtualization project. Perhaps this tool will be one way to beginning to sketch that picture out.  

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