When Stephen Elliot talks to IT executives about virtualization in the data center, he often finds himself in discussions about management, risk reduction, procedure and controls.
In short, executives who might be looking to virtualization for all the classic reasons-including reducing operating and capital costs-are also now keeping the management of those virtualized environments in the forefront of their minds, according to Elliot, vice president of strategy for CA's Infrastructure Management and Automation business unit.
A recent study by the IT Process Institute, sponsored by CA and virtualization giant VMware, backs up what Elliot and other CA officials have been hearing.
"The key thing that pleasantly surprised us [in the study] is that customers right now ... are thinking more proactively about the need to manage their virtual infrastructure," Elliot said in an interview. "Just because they've got new innovations [in their data centers] doesn't mean that their need for management just disappears."
The study, which included data collected from 323 IT organizations in North America, outlined risks involved with server virtualization-from virtual sprawl and single points of failure to complexity and configuration, compliance and capacity issues.
Among the key findings of the study were that 72 percent of the participants in the study are virtualizing production servers, and that of those, 58 percent at one point had paused the implementation to improve operational procedures. In addition, 64 percent of participants said they are comfortable virtualizing business-critical servers.
The study also laid out recommendations for reducing those risks based on the level of maturity of an organization's virtualization implementation.
This is increasingly important as businesses rapidly move beyond using virtualization in test and development environments and deploy virtualization technology in production arenas, Elliot said.
Shekar Ayyar, vice president of infrastructure alliances for VMware, agreed.
"The results of this study are consistent with the feedback we receive from our customers who tell us that strong management and automation tools are essential for maximizing the payoff from VMware virtualization," Ayyar said in a statement.
For those enterprises using virtualization to consolidate servers and virtualize business-critical systems in production environments, the study noted 11 management practices, including host access, configuration and provisioning controls, and virtual machine provisioning.
For businesses at the next level, looking for high availability and disaster recovery capabilities via virtualization, management practices include configuration standardization, provisioning with approved build images, and using a "trust but verify" strategy for configuration compliance and change process, according to the study.
Finally, for organizations looking for greater dynamic resource management capabilities, the study recommends controls in such areas as configuration discovery, change approval and tracking, capacity and performance management, and support for greater automation.
The study can be found here.
Elliot said IT executives are understanding the need for greater management capabilities and are looking to top-tier vendors like CA, BMC Software and others for help.
"Customers are looking for confidence, for leadership in this area," he said. "They're engaged."