First step to the cloud – virtualization – can be a doozy

For most agencies, server virtualization is a first step toward cloud computing. If you do virtualization right, a move to the cloud is that much easier. However, if you make a mess of it, your journey to the cloud could be tougher, reports John Moore in Federal Computer Week.

Some executives rightly view virtualization as a way to cut hardware and power costs by reducing the number of servers they need, but that means thinking about it only in tactical terms. Virtualization can also be an opportunity to modernize and expand the IT department’s role as a service provider to the rest of the organization, Moore writes.

Virtualization enables agencies to operate a more efficient infrastructure by replacing what had been multiple hardware servers with “virtual” or software versions of those servers that run on a single machine. Besides reducing the number of physical machines needed by a factor of five or even 10, virtual servers are much easier to set up, manage and move around than physical ones.

However, virtualization requires a different viewpoint, said Joe Brown, president of Accelera Solutions. “You go away from being builders and controllers of IT infrastructure to being retailers and orchestrators of business services,” he said.

That is also an apt description of the IT department’s role as cloud services become more common. And once an agency has virtualized its server infrastructure, it can move data processing tasks more easily to the platform that makes the most financial or operational sense, whether it is housed in an internal data center or operated by a cloud provider. But to get the most out of a virtualization investment — and pave the way for cloud adoption — agencies will need to do more than launch a few virtual machines.

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