Somehow over the years, the automotive industry has convinced us that the new calendar year begins in October. After all, that is when the next model year is commercially available, complete with all the new bells and whistles to make life easier and more complete, as well as drive demand for the latest and greatest on four wheels. In many ways, that same upgrade fever affects our technology buying patterns, highlighting the incremental improvements that promise fewer clicks, seamless integrations, greater ease of use, new buttons and widgets, and new-found productivity. But just as that new car will likely have less impact on making your cross-country road trip memorable than the route than you choose to take, the success of new technology implementations, like virtualization, is more about the business benefit realized by your company and less about the features of the technology. Thats not to say that there is no difference between a luxury sedan and an economy subcompact, but six months after the trip, its unlikely that anyone will comment on the leather seats, dual-zone climate control or satellite radio. What they will remember are the places they visited, food shared, moments enjoyed and events that captured their attention. While virtualization technology itself has tremendous potential to improve IT processes, reduce operational costs and save energy for many business organizations, the road to success, failure or other memorable moments with this technology is also heavily dependent on the route that you plan, the stops that you make and the real-time traffic reports you use to guide your way. Like the many roads leading to your desired vacation destination, your network could contain the potholes and pitfalls to detour your initiative or ultimately make it a traffic fatality. A roadmap including insight to the physical infrastructure supporting the fancy new car of virtualization can not only successfully get you to your final destination, but also make it a trip worth reliving.
Making informed decisions about the correct mix and deployment of virtualization technology requires more than just the reams of data points you can collect about its operation. This forest of data can obscure your view and prevent you from noticing the trend of trees that whittle away at your ROI. The thousands of dollars saved in hardware costs by virtualized servers can easily be negated if every user accessing the enterprise application hosted on that virtual instance now must wait for their transactions to complete. Virtual servers enable higher utilization rates on physical servers, leading to greater enterprise efficiencies. However, with each added virtual server, the business risk of failure increases. Instead of risking just one enterprise application, the physical server becomes a single point of failure for multiple applications and a broader range of end users. More users are vying for information across the servers network interface card and the traffic from multiple network segments converges on the hosting switch. The decision to host another enterprise application on a physical server is not just about the servers spare CPU cycles; it requires balancing the number of users, network traffic and physical capacity of the complete infrastructure along the entire route from user to server. However, simple reports and tabulated data are of minimal value in analyzing complex, multivariable, interdependent data sets. New graphical and interactive Web-based dashboards deliver contemporary flexibility and interactivity for selecting, exploring, analyzing and visualizing data to uncover previously unknown trends and patterns and empower strategic business decisions.
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