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That's stall, folks: When bureaucracy impedes virtualization

My recent article on ISV stall struck a chord with some readers — mostly because they’d never heard the term “ISV stall” before.

Basically, ISV stall is a roadblock to virtualization that occurs when software vendors won’t support their applications on virtual servers. It’s part of a larger problem that CA’s Andi Mann recently termed “VM stall” — when a virtualization roll-out hits a wall after the initial consolidation phase.

This afternoon I spoke with David Lynch, vice president of marketing for Embotics, about VM stall. He said the problem affects most of Embotics’ customers, and it’s a tough one to solve because technology alone won’t cut it.

Most organizations experience VM stall as they try virtualizing more mission-critical applications, Lynch said.

Virtualizing mission-critical apps is difficult enough from a technology standpoint, and relying on manual processes can really grind the project to a halt, Lynch said. Of course, Embotics’ products are all about automating monitoring and reporting in virtual infrastructures, so the company has a vested interest in spreading its message. But Lynch acknowledged that VM stall is not a problem that products alone can solve.

That’s because the biggest cause of VM stall has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with bureaucracy. Oracle, SAP and other financial applications, for example, have a lot more stakeholders and affect a lot more employees than the run-of-the-mill systems you probably virtualized first. Try making any changes to these mission-critical apps — let alone migrating them from physical to virtual infrastructures — and you’ll run into a whole lot of red tape.

“[Virtualization] cuts across all the silos that the traditional data center has in place,” Lynch said.

And breaking down these silo walls isn’t easy. When Embotics tries to get different departments to work together to overcome VM stall, a typical response is, “No, we don’t want to involve that group,” Lynch said. He also told the story of one organization that increased its storage budget to support virtualization, only to see the storage group go and spend that money on something else.

It’s tempting to say, “Get all your decision-makers in the same room, explain the value of virtualization to them, and come up with a plan to overcome VM stall.” But that’s easier said than done.

Some decision-makers in other departments may be anti-virtualization, just because that’s the way they’ve always done things. Others may view VM stall as “your problem” and have no inclination to help you. And all it takes is one or two of these people to stop your virtualization deployment in its tracks.

When it comes to VM stall, there are no magic jumper cables.

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