The benefits for virtualization are obvious but still need to be sold
Many IT professionals think the benefits of virtualization are now obvious, but they still have to operate in a government world that will be cash poor for a long time. If they want their virtualized infrastructure, they’ll still need to sell their story.
Government agencies have never been so flush with cash that they could implement new IT programs at will. In the current era of severe budget constraints, developing and launching virtualization projects require even closer attention to return on investment and an ability by the executives in charge to argue the value content of those programs.
That’s true even though agencies have begun to realize significant savings through the server virtualization and data center consolidations they’ve already achieved. Even then, however, finding ways to pay for ongoing and new virtualization programs isn’t easy. In its survey of government IT professionals, MeriTalk found that more than one-third of respondents quoted the capital costs involved as one of the major pressures on server virtualization, with even more also saying they didn’t have the funds to migrate legacy applications to the new environments.
The truth, as many government IT leaders will tell you, is that agencies have to invest in order to achieve the kinds of efficiencies in their operations that both administration and congressional authorities are constantly demanding from them. Virtualization, with its inherent promise of being able to do more with the technology that’s available, is an option whose attraction is increasingly obvious.
That was the reason behind CIO Adrian Gardner’s push for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, for example. The threat that his operations and maintenance tail would “eat me alive” forced him to choose virtualization as a primary tool to handle that in a tight fiscal climate.
Even so, he said, he still had to make a hard sell to his chief financial officer and other management that it was the right thing to do. In the end, he focused on relatively proven factors of improved performance and the potential cost savings.
“We’ve been able to tell the story that, if we invest in virtualization and VDI, then some of these innovative practices and capabilities will yield an ROI,” Gardner said. “We’re also beginning to prove out that those investments will result directly in cheaper new buildings and reduced construction and maintenance costs associated with the facilities we already maintain.”
Those kinds of arguments centered on localized returns tend to make a bigger impact than projections of overall efficiencies, he said.
Dwindling budgets are also a firm reality at the Census Bureau, according to CIO Brian McGrath, “but at the same time, my customers are not coming to me and saying it’s OK for me to do less. It’s exactly the opposite.”
However, there’s a real understanding in his organization about the need to move to enterprise common services, and that’s what VDI is expected to provide. It’s really the only way to deliver the emerging capabilities that his customers need in order to deliver the daily analytics and data capture requirements of the bureau, he said.
The much faster speed to market to support the expansion of telework was also something that executives at the bureau quickly understood.
“From a VDI perspective, we’ve got something on the order of 2,500 people who are teleworking now,” McGrath said. “Having the opportunity to do that with personally owned equipment [eliminates the] millions of dollars and delayed adoption of telework if we had to go through the process of issuing everyone a laptop.”
The bureau also has a hard target with the next decennial census in 2020, for which it will need to support a large field organization. Virtualization is seen as the focus for the IT that field organization will employ.
“VDI really positions us well for that since, in the charter we’ve built for the project, we said that the architecture shall have the capability to scale to a million users,” McGrath said.