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Like so many bloggers I am here to talk about lurking issues with virtualization. However, I’m not here to talk about the technical details of items like promiscuous mode on a vSwitch or setting proper permissions in Virtual Center (which by the way these are both important). I’m here to talk about a more fundamental issue that plagues many IT shops–proper process around change management.

I talk with many customers today about their change management process and the vast majority still struggle to effectively manage change. They all have a change management process but they have varying degrees of success with it. Most customers enter change information into a change management system but for the most part the data entered is inconsistent. If I ask a few probing questions like can you tell about all the changes that took place to a particular asset or how do you know a ticket was completed successfully they generally do not have this information.

One of my favorite examples of a poor process was a very large customer who used an enterprise ticketing system yet could really not track anything of relevance with this system. It was not the change management system’s issue because it had all the bells and whistles. It was the customer who had put a terrible work flow around this system. I sat with the customer to understand their existing procedure for submitting a ticket and was astounded to see that when it was time to fill in the asset name/group that was getting the change they used a drop down to select “Production.” This is an organization that had 2000+ production servers so their filter was just to say production versus staging or QA. Suffice it to say this left some room for improvement.

I’d like to say this was an anomaly but it really is not. In many cases when I sit with a customer to understand their change process I see similar results. They do not enter the asset’s name or instead put it in a giant memo field so this obviously makes it impossible to report upon. They may or may not document what exactly is going to change or keep it very generic like “Updating the Firewall Rules.” Well, if I need to roll back a change that definitely tells me what I need to know!

So why is this relevant to virtualization? Obviously, this is a process framework that should not only govern the physical world but also the virtual world. So, if an organization manages changes poorly today this problem will grow by a large factor. It so much easier to make changes in the virtual world and these changes often go under the radar. Since you can easily add a brand new machine or even add a new network with a few mouse clicks most people do this without the proper authorization. This leads to undocumented changes but even when people do document the changes they put in the bare minimum that is required for the change system.

One of the greatest features of virtualization is that it runs at lighting speed and you can react to the business’ needs faster than ever possible. However, in this case its greatest strength could become its greatest weakness if it paired together with an organization that does not have a well defined and mature change process.