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How to overcome business unit objections to virtualization

Having trouble convincing the business unit to virtualize your data center? Expert Scott Feuless offers some suggestions to help persuade them in this expert response.

How can IT overcome objections from the business regarding virtualization?
Although consolidation brings a lot of benefits to businesses, when it comes down to taking dedicated servers away, the business units often push back. Management will express concerns about performance, service levels, and security to argue that a pet application should not share hardware. This can be one of the key issues that block virtualization initiatives. There are, however, some things that you can do to navigate the politics of virtualization.

1. Proven success in non-production environments and with fewer critical applications. If you start in a non-production environment, you will have the opportunity to develop and track performance measures, demonstrate safety and reliability, resolve security issues and establish management processes to support a virtualized infrastructure. It's true that virtualizing a development environment is not the same as virtualizing key business applications. Other considerations can also come into play, such as regulatory concerns, but by demonstrating experience and success from the outset and developing a business plan to address the unique considerations of production environments, you are on solid ground to sell your case.

2. Establish meaningful chargeback. Putting a chargeback system in place that is based on specific utilization measures and accurate costing will help business users recognize the impact for their business unit. Typically they will be far more concerned about their own department's costs than they will be about overall corporate cost reduction, so if you can show them that putting their application on a virtual server is going to cost them less, then you've won about 75% of the battle.
*Editor's Note: For more information on chargeback, see Figuring out costs, ROI and chargeback.

3. Focus on the improved service that virtualization can enable. Many business units are more concerned with getting new applications running quickly than they are with any other IT service. The quicker they can get those new applications up, the quicker they can get their exciting new services to market. Some firms can not get new servers and storage provisioned fast enough to meet this demand, and virtualization can help with that.

4. Get top-level support. You need someone on your team that focuses on overall corporate costs. Pleasing the boss has been a good motivator since the first company was formed, and virtualization should be part of a bigger picture IT resource optimization strategy that is understood by upper management. If it's not on the radar of your C-level executive, you aren't likely to get very far with it.

This was last published in August 2007

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