Silos have always been a problem in IT, but in the modern data center, virtualization plays an increasingly central...
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role that requires admins and management to open lines of communication and responsibility. The introduction of virtualization exposed everything as it was pushed into this new environment, which tore down some silos but quickly gave rise to others. The virtualization administrator is responsible for this new environment, but unlike in previous silos, few understand how extensive this environment can be.
Who is included in the virtualization domain?
Virtualized infrastructure might fall under the virtualization administrator's umbrella, but that doesn't mean other groups shouldn't be involved -- in fact, it's ideal if they are. Networking is still networking, even if much of the physical aspect of it has disappeared. Server maintenance is still necessary; the daily tasks haven't changed significantly even though the hardware platform has. While there might be minor differences, servers are still servers, even if they have been virtualized, so the virtualization administrator will need to learn to give up some level of control and share responsibility for certain tasks.
Virtualization is central
Because virtualization administrators might not have an in-depth knowledge of networking and server management, other team members need to be trained to work in this new environment. Cross training was a pretty big buzz word a few years ago, but it's fallen out of favor. In these shared environments, however, it's more critical than it has ever been.
A virtual infrastructure shouldn't be only known to a few. The virtual platform has become the core of the data center and it needs to be open. While you don't want everyone in the infrastructure to be capable of making changes, you need to open it up enough to give the networking team access to networking settings, the storage team access to storage settings and so on. If the virtualization administrator doesn't do this, it breeds mistrust and that's the last thing you want. A closed data center can also pose security and reliability risks. If you leave your entire data center to only a few people, and they go rogue or decide to leave, the remaining personnel won't be able to fix any damage or effectively manage the infrastructure.
Transition can be fraught with challenges
There are challenges with opening up the data center. The prime challenge is to convince management to let go of some control, and at the same time, convince management that's unaccustomed to this environment to embrace change.
Though you can try to force these groups to change, it's better to convince them with training. This can be a combination of training led by an instructor and training led by a virtualization administrator. The goal is to create shared responsibility and ownership of this critical environment. While different people have different specialties, under the right circumstances, they'll often want to learn new things. The key is to present it so that staff can see the positive aspects of these efforts, rather than focusing on the negative.
Management must encourage the transformation
Management has a key role to play in this as well. Management has to encourage these sides to share information rather than simply demand it. They have to show the benefits of the transition, have patience while it occurs and weather the cost of resources taken away from day-to-day tasks. Your virtual infrastructure is a core part of your data center and any examination of it needs to go beyond the immediate software and hardware costs. Who manages it and how it's managed are as critical as the equipment that you put into it.