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Be flexible as you navigate the transition to cloud

Virtualization's standing is uncertain in an increasingly cloud-based world. IT admins must consider the costs and savings of their infrastructure and staff as they transition.

Over the past few years, many organizations have significantly reduced their hardware footprint thanks to virtualization....

This has allowed for the consolidation of large swaths of servers, but with more applications making the transition to the cloud, the future of virtualization is uncertain.

This uncertainty centers on one major question: Is it possible to move everything in your data center to the cloud? Depending on whom you ask, it might be possible -- most applications in use today have a SaaS offering. One of the keys to this question is the size of your organization. It's possible -- and often more cost-effective -- for SMBs to do so, but it is more confusing for larger customers. These companies have large amounts of infrastructure, often with years of life left.

Be ready for ongoing operational costs

Mass migration to the cloud can save a lot of capital investment for new infrastructure, but should you migrate to the cloud if your servers still have life left? Your physical infrastructure might be a little older, but oftentimes, it's already paid for, while the cloud is an ongoing expense.

Flexibility will be essential.

Companies must also examine whether they're ready for increased operational costs. Monthly cloud costs don't go away, and it's unlikely that it will ever go down -- in fact, the opposite is more likely to occur. As you look to scrap your old infrastructure, do so slowly in case something changes. You might even find some uses for those resources you already paid for.

Old infrastructure can still be taught new tricks

Excessive infrastructure should never go to waste. Moving large-scale applications, such as email, to the cloud can free up infrastructure that you can use to test new or existing applications. Since this infrastructure was built for virtualization, it's often fairly powerful, so it should have some additional uses. It can facilitate upgrades and testing environments that can accelerate your transition to the cloud. These environments also provide onsite capacity in the event your migration isn't as smooth as you hoped. Depending on age and capacity, this infrastructure could even be used for disaster recovery (DR).

Licensing and maintenance costs

Although repurposing existing virtual infrastructure can save on some costs, it can add others. You have to continue to pay for both the licensing and maintenance; those costs are now part of your Opex bill with your cloud provider. While you might keep your existing licenses and maintenance agreements, you're effectively doubled-billed because the cloud won't save you money on reducing licensing or maintenance. In addition, hardware maintenance costs tend to skyrocket after three years. It might be better to run the equipment without a support contract, even though this would limit what you could do with the equipment.

Remain adaptable during the staff transition

The next question is: What do you do with your staff? Virtualization has already removed many of the dedicated hardware technicians from the data center. Is it the virtualization admin's turn to go?

While companies retained many administrators due to the time it took to reduce hardware, those companies may not make the same decision during the transition to the cloud. A Microsoft Exchange admin could quickly end up becoming a Microsoft Outlook admin after an organization moves email to the cloud. This creates an expensive, underutilized and, most likely, unhappy employee.

While the same hasn't happened to virtualization, networking and other infrastructure admins yet, it's possible given some of the newer offerings, such as VMware Cloud on AWS. New roles and retraining will help, but the simple fact is that not as many high-end people will be needed on site. This doesn't mean virtualization jobs will disappear completely, but the more siloed the virtualization staff is, the less likely they will be to survive the transition to the cloud.

Flexibility will be essential. While the virtualization admin has always had a wide base of knowledge and skills, your company can help to bridge that even further into more cloud-ready roles with automation, containers and network microsegmentation training for existing staff. The increasing popularity of the cloud doesn't mean the death of the data center; it's simply an opportunity for resources and staff to shine in a different way.

Next Steps

Read these five tips before moving from virtualization to cloud computing

Virtualization makes DR in the cloud a possibility

IT departments must close the skills gap

This was last published in October 2017

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