Sunday, 2 August 2009

Virtualisation within today's IT Frameworks

When I look at current IT frameworks that are followed within corporate environments it still appears that people are still trying to erratically bolt on any methdology and best practices created by new emerging game breaking technology. My main target area of technology that evidently shows that this problem exists is with bringing processes up to date with the current explosion created by the introduction of Virtualisation technology to datacentres.

The higher level issues

Today we have mature IT Libary's and frameworks such as ITIL, MOF and many others which have over the years focused on building operational and technical processes that you can tailor to operate a streamlined Infrastructure (in theory). Libary's like ITIL had to start with a baseline somewhere, but with technology growth this is however something that needs to continuously evolve to changing fads and paradigms. Examples of this include the fact that 3-4 years ago hardly anyone virtualised servers like they do today, nobody ever heard of the Cloud let alone looked at using it, nobody performed Outsourcing as rediculously as they try to do today and we certainly were not under the same financial constraints that we all face due to the credit crunch.

So enter to market at about 2004/5 enterprise server virtualisation into this arena, with the technology having one of the biggest impacts to IT since the actual physical servers it has consolidated, and having many many technological advances which have fully matured 5 years later and is now mature enough to suggest it will be here for many moons to come. However even with the dramatic impact it has had it still appears that IT Frameworks still lag in providing any focus on how Virtualisation technology changes process within datacentre ops. When I google "ITIL and Virtualisation" I get very little to suggest I'm wrong.

Back at the ranch and in the datacentre and with new technology or not the op processes still need to be followed to keep the ship running, Architects and operations guys that know Virtualisation inside out and have seen it mature to the stage that it is at today want it desperately to change to make sure that they are continuously are not drowned in legacy process which limits potential of the core technology they believe in. It isnt just going to be Virtualisation that suffers, add game breaking technologies into this arguement such as Cisco UCS and EMC Symmetrix VMAX that reduce even more reduction of process in the management and operation of the datacentre and this is going to become more and more of a pain in the arse to you and me.

Yes I know...

Virtualisation and the underlying technology that supports the virtual landscape is deployed as a point solution, this is also the case for the example technologies that are changing the shape of datacentres, you procure them and you can solve common datacentre problems. Virtualisation ecosystems as in the software and components that you can deploy however can reduce your process by default and with very little need to implement any fandangle add on or interfaces, however you still need to ensure that this potential is exploited correctly.

Any problem areas of a datacentre that have been remediated by Virtualisation had various processes and framework activity previously structured around them which was expensively designed for them when the infrastructure was placed within the Physical world. For an analogy of this the Physical world is rather much the equivilant of turning an oil tanker around in the Panama canal, instead now you have replaced the oil tanker with virtualisation technology that now means everything has the potential to move at 1000MPH, meaning now instead of the tanker you are turning around a hovercraft in the Panama canal. This speed and agility however can be a double edged sword, it now means your process certainly has to be a lot more streamlined and lean and you need to be on top of defining processes for any operational activity alongside any IT service management teams.

A comparison

An example of differences in contrast is within Vsphere and that you now have the possibility of features such as Virtual Machine server resource upgrades being possible on the fly with Hot Add of CPU/RAM all via the gui with a soft change. Question is does this type of thing require a full attention of the CAB? Surely it is low risk, it doesn't require an outage, it dosen't go wrong (yet). Other examples include run book reductions in the event of a DR scenario, by using something like Vmware SRM to replicate VM's negates this, previous it would need probably half a department of people and a runbook as long as your arm to intiate even a reduced functionality test.

So the question is what can you do to help transform your processes to align to a technology evolution like this?

People Change

The first place to start is by educating operational teams on what Virtualisation actually is and how it changes the game for IT service management, you need to evangelise and show them how the technology works, you need to ensure that they will see a benefit in both there day to day job role and most importantly you need to ensure that they do not feel the new technology is likely to put them and there role at risk.

It's important to highlight any differences in technology and to explain clearly and concisely what has changed, bull in a china shop tactics with service management players won't cut it, you need to explain the real basics first, examples of this could include;
  • Release Management - Includes covering how the day to day service automation and features such as Vmotion work first, then work onto working with them to define where you can reshape other process flows for say a change mechanism for upgrading your virtual resources or deploying various new VM's in an automated script.
  • Root Cause Analysis/Incident management - Explain that vSphere can offer a full blown visable internal and extensible monitoring repositary to see what has changed and when, this can show them that you can remove the need for witchhunts on RCA procedures. It's also extensible into current service management tools such as BMC remedy, Veeam Nworks with HPOV and MS SCOM.
  • Change Management - Cover things such as how Vmotioning means that you do not need to turn off VM's to power down the ESX host, the VM's can be migrated, and explain how other technology such as Storage Vmotion can even provide reduction in outages on your SAN.
  • Capacity Management - Explain Resource Pools and the ESX Scheduler, this doesn't need to be to a VCP understanding, keep to a basic overview that Virtual Machines can be rate limited or provided with reservations in resource pools.
  • Release management - Explain you can perform activity such as a snapshot before any change is made on a VM for instant rollback and service dependant you may negate the need for a CAB approval by the change being deemed low risk. Also explain you can negate potential bottle necks by P2V'ing machines with technology such as Vmware Appspeed.
  • Continuity Management - Explain the runbook can be completely disolved with technology for DR such as SRM, Also explain you won't need to organise outages during bank holiday weekends when you should all be enjoying a pint down the pub!

These are all example areas to kickstart your approach, I could write hundreds of gamechangers which evolve from technological advances. Like any new technology the important thing is to ensure that you view the processes you need to transform from a different angle and viewpoint, the people responsible for managing the operational processes will 9 times out of 10 probably want to emulate what they do today "because it works and thats how we have always done it" thats rubbish I Say, ensue you make sure you educate and ensure that the newer technology you are designing is effectively not just being put in as project process exercise and you actually get the best TCO out of the technology.

The Future and media methods

Looking at how we can solve the problem and I do beleive we will always be constrained on keeping processes upto date with new Technology trends until we can change how IT moguls set goverend criteria for being adopted into a formal Libary.

New technology mediums with things such as Wiki's and Blogs may emerge into actually being the methodology medium, subject to obvious approval by relevant bodies this is something that I beleive will become more and more accepted by the pragmatists. When you look at how the Encyclopedia has evolved it went from book to Encarta type resource through to mostly where we are today with the Internet with Wiki's so the next logical step has to be moving from classroom based environments into online web 2.0 experiences for realtime updates with trends.


Some of this you may think is rubbish, hey I don't proclaim to being an expert in ITIL, This is something that most people adopting new technology may face so hopefully I have provided you with a possible approach to reduce process and provide to your business what matters most which is core quality services and streamlined delivery.


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