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Server virtualization in the age of mergers and acquisitions

Last week at VMworld ’08, while living in the glitz of Vegas for a week of product news, press releases, interviews and judging the Best of VMworld entires with my TechTarget colleagues, my constantly buzzing BlackBerry delivered the latest financial news — the collapse of Lehman, the fall of Morgan, the implosion of AIG — all saying the doom of the market is upon thee.

As an investor, this wasn’t my happiest week (I always felt it was odd to invest money in people who invest money), but for a lot of others, last week must have been miserable indeed. Among those who are feeling miserable right now are IT staffers at Bank of America, who must now acquire a global IT infrastructure as their company acquires Morgan Stanley. And of course, federal IT staff are now worrying about how to oversee the essentially nationalized AIG. That’s not to mention the IT teams at numerous other companies engaged in mergers and acquisitions.

This is the time for server virtualization to shine. Bank of America should lead the charge in making efficient use of virtualization in their acquisition of Morgan Stanley. BofA is going to inherit an immense quantity of hardware, not to mention enormous heating/cooling/electric bills, colossal real estate costs and a titanic regulatory compliance project as it tries to integrate its own IT infrastructure with Morgan’s. If BofA (or any acquiring company for that matter) is smart, it will use virtualization to physical-to-virtual (P2V) every possible asset, transport to its own data center and import those virtual systems.

Bank of America shouldn’t just P2V low-hanging fruit, either — it should reach for the stars. Then it should shut down that physical hardware, wipe it and sell it to help offset the project costs. There are obviously a lot of nuanced steps involved in making this happen, but all the major pain points to which virtualization presents solutions are all the major pain points in integrating a new IT infrastructure:

1) Server move/change/add/remove
2) Power costs
3) Real estate costs
4) Heating and cooling
5) Configuration management
6) Asset management

The difference between the slow-rolling projects in most companies and the aggressive plan I recommend is night and day. The ROI in a progressive rollout can be achieved over time, integrated into the budget and then applied over that time. The costs of an acquisition and the integration of that acquisition’s IT assets are immediate and immense.

Virtualization can provide those long-term benefits in the short term — the elimination of real estate, cooling and power costs alone will offset the cost of licensing and storage. The enhanced backup and retention possible with virtualized systems will go a long way towards easing regulatory concerns of data retention.

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