Archive for August, 2010

The Strongest Aspect of Virtualization Is the Human Element

Critical Observations – Chapter 02

Read the title a second time. It is not a cliché although it may sound like one? Having watched various virtualization strategies tried over the years, there is one common or key element, the human factor that makes, breaks, or otherwise confounds some when attempting virtualization or continuing to be successful with virtualization. How it confounds those that misjudge or miss value the human aspect of virtualization, varies. But I have observed the following scenarios take place.

1. Lack of Talent
2. Lack of Commitment
3. Lack of Leadership
4. Lack of Stability
5. Lack of Value

Lack of Talent, is the obvious pitfall, to be blunt and tactless, but there is no other way to explain this failure of the human element. An organization must have the right people, at the right time, to do the right job, inclusive of architecture, engineering and operational support, or the virtualization initiative will fail. I know of one firm that had at one time of more than 25 people struggle for a year with virtualization, and never got the virtualization infrastructure off the ground, out of the lab. I know of another firm with a 5 person team that grew to 7 over a few weeks time implement a virtualization solution in less than 100 days, which saved the firm more than 8 million in less than 1 year, and almost the same the following year.

Lack of Commitment, this factor I have discussed before, this is the idea that management from the top down, supports virtualization, in real, factual, terms, call it putting your money were your mouth is, or championing the initiative, whatever it is called, it is one thing… support for the virtualization strategy from all layers of management, hands down. Establishing a virtualization based culture and attitude, that in effect makes everyone see virtualization as the preferred solution because it is the right solution where appropriate.

Lack of Leadership, this is related to commitment, but different. Unless there is a strong, forceful leadership exhibited throughout the lifecycle of virtualization, which takes years, and significant cost of capital before savings are realized perspective, remember 1 year is a long time for management to wait, virtualization cannot survive. Pre-provisioning must be done; realignment of resources has to be done, etc. Management is not always great at taking risk, when said risk cannot be rationalized away as a nonfinancial initiative. Virtualization is a financial risk, if someone else says that is not so, they have no clue what virtualization as a strategic objective is or requires to succeed in the real world.

Lack of Stability, this is an intangible factor that can impact virtualization in an indirect fashion. If a firm is constantly changes from an organizational perspective, and such a corporate variance is not core to the culture of the given firm, virtualization often becomes fragmented, to many owners, designers, or implementers. Standardization is a foundation stone for virtualization, at least from the host infrastructure perspective, if not the virtual instance operating system baseline perspective. Cost avoidance comes with infrastructure reduction, and consistency intertwined with the logic and objectives of standardization. Standards only exist if implemented. I had a boss once tell me that comment was stupid… That boss was not around for long, by the way. If an organization is not stable and consistent, in a way that it can live with, then virtualization is all but impossible, because the first thing lost is uniform use of established standards.

Lack of Value, this is in reference to the human element without question, not justification of a virtualization strategy from a cost savings or cost-avoidance argument. Moreover, this may be the most important issue of all of the above points. For example, in a hypothetical context, a firm has the right talent, comment, and leadership in place. The firm is stable and aggressive in its development of competitive advantage, which in no small part is based on cutting edge virtualization design and implementation. But this firm does not value its architecture, engineering or operational staff in some way? What happens? Failure to establish competitive advantage based on virtualization, hook, line and sinker. Don’t believe that there is one architect, and one engineer, and even that one operational support staff person that is critical to virtualization success? Well, look again, they are there, they are sometimes visible, sometimes all but invisible. But they exist! If you don’t identify, know, and retain these key human resources that designed, developed, and implemented the virtualization 1.0 strategy in place, the ability to establish 2.0, 3.0, etc., which will continue to save a firm millions for years if not decades to come, knock on wood, will disappear as if by magic. Worse, by letting these key talents walk, a competitor has or will gain as if by magic much if not all of the benefits from years of design and development blood sweat and tears, for a fraction of the human cost. Don’t think this is real? Talk to the headhunters that call these key people each week!

The greatest threat to virtualization strategic planning and implementation, both when starting a new strategy and critical to the continued success of a maturing strategy, is when the economic climate is negative, because every decision that incurs significant upfront capital expense is painful and under extreme critical review before approval. For a virtualization strategy that is mature, and successful this may be extreme, since management is trying to squeeze blood out of rocks, and virtualization is always seen as an obvious target for management to improve expense reduction against. Thus impulse is to not recognize or reward talent, to take said talent for granted, or disqualify the potential for lost of talent. The headhunters know this, and they are out in force, right now, because key talent saves real money, especially when said talent can be stolen away. Recognition and reward funds are always hard to come by at the bottom or while sliding down an economic slump, but to not realize that the best and brightest can leave in seconds? Not take serious action to keep key talent? Well, it happens does it not? Talk about handing the competition a straight forward and effective way to gain or negate competitive advantage! That is the definition of the word… Dolt.

1 comment August 27th, 2010

Is It Lipstick On A Pig Time, Or What?

Ok, boys and girls quickly, line-up, single file, if you please… Those with walkers, canes, and motorized chairs to the front please…

Why do I think VMworld 2010 is going to be a boom or a bust? To be honest I don’t know. Having been at every VMworld conference, having enjoyed them all, having been, excited, intrigued, etc. over the years, what has me yawning as I write this? What is different about this year? Have I become jaded, at last? Since I live in Southern California, the flight to Northern California, San Francisco, is not a lot of effort. I will see some friends at VMworld like I always seem to. I will bump into fellow technological peers in virtualization, in the flesh, versus carrying on discussions, rants, and debates via electronic transport. The exhibits hall will be heavy on vague references to sex, rather than product merits presented. The official sanctioned bloggers from VMware will of course ignore me, as usual. Someone will make negative comments about me, as usual, etc., etc., etc. Guess I could go on for a page or two in this blog on what VMworld is like. And no, the weak economy is an easy out for why VMworld might be a bit different this year.

VMworld has gone stale? Is VMworld not supposed to be going to Disneyland? No matter how many times you have gone, you still enjoy it? Have I changed or has VMworld changed? Well, maybe both? Anyone really seriously looked at the attendance demographics of VMworld say for the last 2 years? Well VMware does not publish it, that I know of, which is not a ding on VMware, at all. Thus, my observations or recollections are qualitative not quantitative… For the last 2 years, I have been hard pressed to find any significant numbers of attendees under the age 35. In fact, it seems to me, beyond the aging of the attendees, I believe the number of women in technology, at least in virtualization, may have declined? I believe the majority of the attendees are getting older, old males to be specific, per my perception. This perception is reinforced by the selection of the Wednesday night party themes. Gone are the fun, interesting, events, geek oriented, like robotic combat, in favor of aging rock bands or such, entertainment. Even had trouble finding the game console room for the Alumni, anyone remember that one? Where you could play video games and eat high sugar items in the lounge. Hey, duhe, stop jamming me in the ankles with your motorized chair, ok… I am in line to get my bling bag, cough, official VMware 2010 sponsor advertising bag just like you, chill, ok?

Sure, this is not a VMware issue, the entire fabric of the IT industry is aging in reference to human element, in the domestic United States. VMware has become less geek oriented over time as well. That may not be a good thing. It was the geek-ish-ness of virtualization that had the younger generation curious and engaged. VMware wants to appear like another Apple Computer? But is still trying to emulate Microsoft? VMware is big, not without reason, maybe more conservative now, than is beneficial? I guess VMware needs to decide if it is an innovator still, or a holding company? Their last 3 or 4 years have been, no doubt, holding company oriented, with some incremental innovation. VMware learned from Microsoft and to a lesser extent RedHat, that buying solutions or even eliminating potential competition is a proven strategic path. But as VMware acts like an old folks firm, it gets comfortable, maybe even lazy? Do not forget, that ESXi stateless was a hack, that was done outside of the normal process of development in VMware… oh my… what am I saying… ESXi was a quasi hack, early on! Good grief… VMware needs do get back to more of this innovative mindset.

What has this change of focus cost VMware? This loss of innovative spirit that could be said once dominated the entire corporation? Not sure it has that much given VMware is still well in the black, but it has changed the culture of VMware. I believe the culture change has pushed some great ideas out of focus, whatever they were, since VMware is slow to discuss such. Not all, of course because VMware will have some official stateless model soon, VMworld 2010 is a perfect time to show off such. Even if effectively it is about 2 years after the actual idea hit the internet. Moreover, stateless is core to clouding. Clouding has taken off, and VMware does not own the dominate clouds way VMware wanted to do so I suspect. More often than not, number of foundation stones in a cloud design, are more then vSphere. As KVM, and in some cases Xen is, even Hyper-V, run in parallel. I still have my doubts about Xen, and I am not a fan of Hyper-V. But, dominant cloud ownership has slipped through the VMware fist, not that VMware did anything wrong? Well, the world has changed; no one wants to be locked into a single vendor or core architecture. IBM is learning this, in a very painful way with System-P based architecture, for example. Google the number of Cloud providers that use VMware, but also use Hyper-V, KVM and some even Xen for their respective hypervisor based infrastructures, how many support multiple hypervisors? Most if not all… moreover, look at the application virtualization space, and see what is coming on fast? Or in Grid computing? Even virtualization on Mainframes? Parallel lines across multiple vendors is the norm not the exception… this cannot make the individual vendors happy, including VMware.

However, I think the single opportunity that would fire up everyone, would be for VMware to officially spin up a division to get embedded ESX, and maybe even call it something other than ESXe? As a supported but free offering, maybe revitalize VMware Server or player but not lock it into Windows? Support it other variants of hardware devices, make it very hard for Google, Amazon, or anyone else be silly not to use it, or endorse it for non-datacenter models. Note I said hardware variants, iPods, MP3 players, ATOM based net-books, etc., targeting, small embedded systems are begging for mature virtualization. Was not virtualization for cell phone based processors all the rage in the blogs about 2 years go? Many of the various technological industry watch sites were talking up this right? Hello, why is VMware hypervisor licensed technology not in very automobile on the planet, running under Microsoft Sync for example? So that customers can move their virtual personality from desktop, to laptop, to cell, to automobile, to heck, even the computer built into the airline seat in front of them? The virtualization industry needs a shock, and I would like to believe that VMware has the will, and the talent to do it, at least one more time.

If VMworld 2010 is just another VMworld going down the same path established from say 2007, because VMware did not allow competitive ideas or solutions again to attend as in the past, or the only innovation promoted is an official stateless design? Or worse just more vCenter plug-ins, or vCenter enhancement toys? I fear just VMworld 2010 will be lipstick on a pig… which is a horrible metaphor… but applicable, no? Oh, I wonder how many ‘Got Xen?’ shirts I will see at VMworld 2010? I think we may see some got ‘Get KVM?’ shirts this year, or even funnier would be ‘Have Hyper-V R2?’ shirts. Poking VMware in the eye, a bit with such shirts, VMware may not appreciate, but it does get some energy levels up among the attendees, and that is good thing, right?

Add comment August 25th, 2010




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