Monday, January 5, 2009

IT's Big Blind Spots for 2009 (Volume 1)

I've been spending the past 60 days or so surveying the industry, working with analysts, and speaking with IT users. And the more I look, the more I'm finding Big Blind Spots (BBSs) in lots of IT market areas. Depending on how you look at them, they're either big opportunities for the right players in '09, or brick walls fast approaching IT from all sides.

Saavy customers/users have picked-up on some, but the mainstream hasn't -- yet. My theory is because parts of the market, like virtualization, are so white-hot (the "shiny metal objects" that transfix gaze) that people just miss the other components of reality. Plus, vendors' marketing tends to highlight their own products, while downplaying (or omitting) harsher realities.

Follows are some industry observations, and the darker BBSs that follow:
Observation 1: Virtualization is booming! A huge percentage of enterprises have now dipped their toe in the water to experiment with virtualization - indeed it has helped consolidate physical servers, and provides a degree of HA. This must be good for the industry, right? BBS: One of Virtualization's best-kept secrets (but known to IT OPs) is that VM tools still don’t operate on the physical network - switches and VLANs still need to be hand-set. Worse, server I/O is still physical, and expensive to aquire. If you're going to put 20 VMs on a box, how many NICs and cables will you need to buy and provision? This is still a huge complaint from IT.

Observation 2: Management tools are booming! Never have I seen more enterprise management tools with more capabilities being layered-on. Doesn't this mean an easier life? BBS: But complaints I hear from customers are that in the new world of virtualization, there are now "management ghettos". IT is still either buying tools for managing "legacy" (read: Physical) management, or newer tools for Virtual management. This isn't simplifying... it's adding silos to mangement.

Observation 3: HA/DR is mature technology... There are HA/DR solutions from hardware vendors, software vendors and virtualization vendors. Great, right? BBS: The truth is that traditional HA/DR systems are mostly still closely-bound to hardware or applications... and they come at steep prices. While VM-based HA give increased flexibility, it assumes that 100% of the protected infrastructure is already virtualized (from a single vendor, I might add) and is pre-configured with similar I/O and network connections. And finally, with either the dedicated or virtual solution, you're tying-up recovery resources by dedicating with VM host licenses or duplicate application licenses. I'm already hearing that hardware savings from consolidation are being reduced by having to pre-provision recovery servers that sit aroung using Watts and Licenses.
As I said, I've found that the more savvy users I've spoken with already acknowledge the observations, and have taken actions around the Big Blind Spots.

But in most instances, the BBS's are results of not paying attention to the *physical* infrastructure underlying most higher-level systems.

For example, we'll see network automation and compute fabrics solve many of the physical NIC, HBA and networking issues in the near future. We'll also see Infrastructure Orchestration tools provide a highly reliable/dynamic server, I/O, Network and storage infrastructure on which management tools can place physical or virtual instances. And, we'll see the same Physical Infrastructure tools provide HA and DR on entire P & V infrastructures (that might already be supporting VMware, Citrix/Xen and HyperV). These tools can already provide complete recovery environments on true bare-metal resources (servers, network, etc.).

For every panacea, there's usually a Gotcha. So true for the 3 "shiny metal objects" above. More revelations on other Big Blind Spots soon :)

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