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I got a lot of input on my last post about moving live VM’s around, so I thought I’d do two things:

  1. Clarify the point I was on about;
  2. Give an example of what I mean by a technical feature that has – in itself – business value.

Business value: It’s about results, not just activity

Some people thought I was dissing VMware’s VMotion in my previous post. I wasn’t – in fact, we use it in our lab environment and it is very cool and powerful. Rather, the point of my post was that faster movement of VM’s, in itself, may not solve any high-level business problems for at some customers. Therefore it may not even make the list of features that drive “the decision” when choosing a virtualization platform for the business.

Organizations should start with a top-down analysis of the business problem they wish to solve, detail the business requirements / expectations associated with the business problem, then implement processes and technologies that best support their requirements and measure the results vs. their expectations.

The trouble with this approach is that organizations often shy away from dealing with the process changes required to really solve their problems, since that requires getting people to change how they work.

Getting people to change can be hard and painful, so organizations often avoid it. Capital expenditures are much easier to justify than organizational change initiatives, aren’t they?

What’s the consequence? Organizations often turn to a hot feature in a technology, hoping that it will solve or mask their business problem.

Here’s a story about that: A couple of years ago I worked with a large financal institution whose VP of Ops told me, “I can hide most of my unplanned downtime just by overinvesting in capacity and failover.”

He still had availability problems – it was just harder for people to notice because he was masking the symptoms.

So be careful when you’re selecting technology, and don’t get distracted by features for features’ sake – make sure the feature really solves the business’s problem.

And, of course: if VMware’s VMotion and/or DRS solve or reduce your business problem, then that’s good thing.

Technology can tear down walls

Now, let me give you an example of a technical capability I learned more about at the recent VMworld 2008 coference that I believe does add business value, all on its own: the Cisco Nexus 1000V distributed virtual switch. What is that, and why do I think it delivers business value?

This technology will provide a seamless integration of Cisco’s security, policy enforcement, automated provisioning and diagnostics features into dynamic VMware environments. More importantly, it will allow an enterprise’s certified Cisco experts to manage virtual network infrastructure using the same commands, tools, concepts, etc. they already use for physical Cisco switches.

Where is the business value in this? It provides a way to get Cisco network engineers engaged in the management of virtual networking without forcing them to get new training, use new tools, or significantly alter their workflow. More buy-in with lower effort == better business value.

This kind of integration is a huge step in enabling faster, more secure scaling of virtual infrastructure because it eliminates a lot of the “hard and painful” aspects of this kind of business change.

Bravo, VMware and Cisco for making it easier for more people to get more business value out of your products, and capitalize on their past investment in skills development!