Lost Understanding and Mismanagement, One Way to Kill Virtualization

July 28th, 2010

Critical Observations – Chapter 01

First, yes I have been on hiatus, new home, new neighbors, etc. Moving is not fun, at least not for me, I hate packing and unpacking. But I do love I seem to find ways of donating, or losing tons of stuff that I just don’t need. Where I moved to, well it is in the Southern California desert; it is a bit warm during this part of the year, every day over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the view is wonderful if you like desert scenes. The community overall is older, so I feel like the younger set, even though I am in my forties! My Dachshund gets lost in the new house it is bigger than the past one. But I digress… this blog is about virtualization.

A good friend of mine lost his job over a year ago, he has struggled to find work, but recently has, with a smaller consulting firm, yes IT consulting of course. He has been telling me a number of stories about the clients of the firm, since I started in the IT industry with my own very small firm, so we share some common interest on past experience about unique consulting experiences. But one specific story struck me as significant and odd… a firm had been doing virtualization, in this case based on VMware, although the platform is not material in this case, for years and surprise or not, was now seemly retracting from virtualization, in the sense that, the rate of virtualization conversion was dropping off, not just slowing because all the easy to migrate to virtualization was completed, but seemed to be in a resurgence of hardware acquisition trend. Talk about bucking the industry trend?!

As my friend explained the history of the client, the change in direction become more obvious and overt, my surprise increased accordingly. For I have seen organizations change strategies with virtualization before, but never abandon virtualization. In truth this organization has not quite given up on virtualization, but they definitely were struggling with virtualization. I started asking questions, being intrigued to a greater degree, as the discussion over lunch continued. Did they change business goals or objectives? Completely change strategy for IT such that virtualization was somehow not appropriate? Did they depend on a specific application solution now that provided less than wonderful performance on virtualization? Where they out-sourcing their IT infrastructure such that virtualization managed by them was not appropriate? Were they experiencing chronic or systemic issues with virtualization? The answer to all of the above questions, was the same, no, no, etc., no. Well if it was not a business or technology change that was resulted in an operational change, it had to be personnel related, right? So I started asking questions again… did they lose their architecture or engineering IT expertise? Did they lose their IT operational support expertise? No, and no. So I asked the question that I believed would expose the issue… Did they lose the senior management support that championed virtualization? Yes.

This is rare but can happen. So I asked more questions… How exactly did they lose support at the top? The answer was… between staffing changes, reorganizations, etc. The newest iteration of top management was less confident with virtualization than the previous management had been. Virtualization was now understood at a logical concept level only, not at a technical level as once before. For want of a better term to illustrate the situation, management was dumber than ever before about virtualization. So as different groups in the firm, griped about virtualization pitfalls or quirks, which happens at times, management began to cave into the pressure, rather than reaffirming the benefits of virtualization, in effect, creating a counter-culture against virtualization.

The story does not end here fortunately, or should I say unfortunately, because the top management after some time realized they were off track with virtualization and now have a significant problem to get back on track. Virtualization was never abandoned completely, but it was demoted as a priority to the extent that parts of the organization established their own objectives around virtualization, to a degree that re-integrating and re-alignment will be painful. That significant time and resources taken from the core focus of the firm, must be used to resolve the inconsistencies of the situation.

How does an organization avoid this? That is a good question! This situation is difficult to avoid, since the very individuals that need to understand the issue and thus avoid the problem before it impacts profitability are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution. The further up the chain of command, the easier it is, to be blind to technological issues. That is just life, because very few IT savvy managers become Presidents or CEOs. Worse yet if a CEO is not IT savvy to a reasonable degree, then the role of the CIO is misunderstood, misapplied, or ignored to some degree.

When I asked my friend how this situation was addressed, he told me, that his firm warned their client, in this case, that the situation existed. At this point, I was waiting for the details… on my plate was lunch, forgotten for the most part. He stated, that the senior IT manager in the firm, stated that the problem was understood, and being addressed. My friend then stated… well if you have questions, I have a good friend that for lunch would be happy to discuss the situation, and provide insight that might be of assistance. To this offer, or rather, volunteering of my expertise, which I often do over lunch, the reply was… no thank you… we have sufficient individuals that are certified and knowledgeable about virtualization. My friend nodded in understanding, or so he said to me, and let the issue drop.

At this point, I remembered my forgotten lunch, so as I munched on my turkey on whole wheat sub, and slurped at my diet soda, my friend said… I wanted to tell him that you could train his people in your sleep, that you have been a virtualization architect for more years than the client has been using virtualization, never mind that you often provide feedback that finds its way to the very people that developed the materials used to trained his people… but he was not going to listen. To this I just smiled. My friend continued… So I ask you, was the real problem that senior management now in power was less than knowledgeable about virtualization? To which I replied, finishing his train of thought… or that senior IT management was not managing up effectively supporting virtualization goals? My friend smiled.

The bottom-line is, my friend and the consulting firm his is now part of will profit from the situation as illustrated above. As for me, I lost a potential free lunch, but that is ok, I am sure the above organization is only one of many in the same situation. So I should get a few free lunches now and then.

Entry Filed under: A Proper Virtual World

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