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Why it's hard to predict cost of personnel and training

A reader pointed out that Andrew Kutz may have missed the cost of training employees on VMware when it comes to TCO.

After reading "Slippery savings seems a little slippery itself" I agree -- now that you have defined "right planning" -- that downtime would be minimized if there was DAS. However, should the planning not be done, then there would be additional costs as all the servers would be affected. If there is no additional costs for the other servers then it begs the question as to what value they have to the company.

I would also like to say that there is no doubt, based on my personal experiences with VMware, that it is a very reliable enterprise product that works as described. However, the value of VMware is a matter of scale as the more virtual servers per physical servers there are, the better the value proposition is. When you consider the annual maintenance of VMware and the additional skill set that a company needs to have or hire (neither of which has any bearing on the amount of virtual servers per physical server), there must be a minimum amount of virtual servers before there is a positive ROI.

Companies have to realize that there is no value in having a physical server with only two or three virtuals installed on it as the base costs are the same. The value of VMware lies in its ability to host multiple (10, 15, 20, 30) servers on one physical platform and the ROI increases each time you add a server; however; there must be a minimum, or there is no business case for implementing VMWare.

Thank you for your constructive feedback; it is always appreciated.

Re: Savings with more VMs, I completely agree, and perhaps I should have shown how overall costs of a virtual infrastructure decrease the more utilized it is, but I (correctly it seems) assumed that people like yourself would see that.

However, I purposely did not get into the cost of personnel and training because that varies so wildly from company to company. For example, I manage Windows, Linux, UNIX, and OS X servers -- I dabble in a bit of everything. There are people like me, and then there are UNIX and Windows centrists who are in drastic need of cross-training. It is hard to know what you will get.

Thank you again for taking the time to not just read, but absorb the article enough to offer really great comments.

Editor's Note: ...But that wasn't all; our reader wasn't done yet. Here's how the conversation continued...

For the past few years I have been doing work for a company (I am an independent contractor) who have two ESX servers, each with three virtuals. Due to the size of the environment, (25 servers total,) there are no plans to add any more virtuals. This is a perfect example of economics of scale as it would have been far less expensive to install standard 1U servers. The company which recommended and installed VMware either were incompetent or unethical because there was no reason (technical or business) for VMware to be used in this particular environment. Plans are to migrate the VMware instances to physical servers and use VMware in the company's disaster recovery site, an environment where it makes both technical and business sense.

Based on my 25 years in the industry and working with this company, I believe that organizations need to carefully analyze the true TCO of physical vs. virtualization. Companies should build themselves a "Virtualization Calculator " which would have headings like: Hardware, Software, Infrastructure, Rack, Hosting, Support, Maintenance, Personnel, Training, and Downtime Recovery. They then can input their own costs and see for themselves what their costs are. As every company is different, (i.e. one company buys only new servers, another one buys off of Ebay; labor costs and workloads vary between companies,) each company has to decide for themselves if virtualization makes sense in their environment.

Again, I completely agree. Virtualization can be a cure to underutilization, but if it creates more of it, it cures nothing. You should read my next article and webcast entitled "Monitoring a Virtual Infrastructure" where I discuss underutilization.

Thank you again for your very well thought out responses!

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