Kevin McIsaac

Kevin McIsaac

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Conclusion: While Virtual Desktops are one of the hottest infrastructure topics of 2008, simply virtualising a typical desktop environment and migrating that to the data centre will prove to be a very costly mistake. Instead organisations should look beyond the Virtual Desktop hype and focus on implementing a Dynamic Desktop architecture that increases desktop agility and lowers the total cost of ownership. Once adopted the Dynamic Desktop architecture can be used with any type of desktop deployment method, i.e., Full Desktop, Virtual Desktop or Terminal Services, and becomes the foundation for reducing desktop cost and increasing desktop flexibility.


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Conclusion: The release of Microsoft’s hypervisor into a market already dominated by VMware will trigger a tidal wave of marketing from Microsoft that is designed to move the virtualisation “goal-posts”, enabling Microsoft to score some desperately needed wins. These messages will be targeted at CEOs, CIOs and Departmental Managers who will then likely ask IT Architects and Infrastructure Managers why they are not using Microsoft’s virtualisation products.

To prepare for this onslaught IT professionals must understand both Microsoft’s strategy for shifting the goal-posts, and how to deal with it, and the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft’s new hypervisor.


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Conclusion: The recent strong media attention on Green IT, coupled with aggressive vendor marketing, has left the impression that many IT organisations have made significant progress in reducing their environmental impact. In recent conversations with our clients it seems this media and vendor attention has raised concerns with some organisations that they have fallen behind their peers in this area.

To help clarify the status of Green IT in ANZ we recently undertook a survey that indicates most organisation are still in the earliest stages of reducing their environmental impact of IT. While there is great interest in Green IT, and the majority of organisations have a mandate from the executive to reduce the environmental impact, there is a strong disconnect with the IT organisations ability to effect change due to lack of budget and formal programs of work.


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Conclusion: Over the next 7 years the typical commodity IT infrastructure1 will be ‘reinvented’ from today’s network of independent servers and storage into a unified computing resource that looks and behaves remarkably like the old mainframe. This new infrastructure will blend the best attributes from each architecture to create a highly agile, robust and cost effective environment that is based on commodity components.

While the key technologies are available today, due to the inertia of the existing environment, and the cultural barriers in IT and the business, this journey will take most organisations 5-7 years to complete. IT organisations can hasten the journey by breaking down the siloed, hardware centric cultures that exist in their organisation. To succeed, the commodity IT infrastructure must be reinterpreted as a unified, shared resource, where a server is a mere component, rather than as a loose network of servers owned and managed by individuals or groups.


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Conclusion: In most organisations Windows based desktops are ubiquitous and the hardware and software has largely become a commodity. However, in spite of this the desktop Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) still varies wildly across organisations.

The major source of variation in TCO is the relative maturity of an organisation’s desktop management processes. CIOs seeking to lower their desktop TCO should first look closely at their desktop management processes before evaluating new desktop deployment models, i.e., Virtual Desktops, Thin Desktops.


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Since the turn of the decade IT infrastructure has undergone an incredible transformation driven by the rapid commoditisation of servers, storage and operating systems. In the last 10 years relatively expensive high-end proprietary servers have given way to cheap but powerful commodity servers. In the same period expensive and inflexible internal storage has given way to shared, networked storage and the various vendor’s flavours of UNIX have fallen to the two mass market operating systems, Linux and Windows Server.


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Conclusion: Riding on the coat tails of Server Virtualisation1, Virtual Desktops have become one of the hottest infrastructure topics of 2008. Vendors promote Virtual Desktops as a desktop replacement that eliminates the common concerns of a traditional full desktop, i.e., high cost, complex management, slow provisioning, security, inflexible etc.

Unfortunately discussions about Virtual Desktops are often clouded by misinformation and unrealistic expectations that obscures the issues and stifles investigation. Too often the stated benefits are not closely examined because the answers seem self-evident. Desktop managers who fail to carefully examine each of the stated benefits may find themselves swept away by the hype and end up with an even more expensive and complex desktop environment.


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Conclusion: IT organisations considering implementing Thin Desktops should first examine the three main architectures (i.e., Terminal Services, Virtual Desktops and Blade PCs), understanding the different costs, risks and benefits for each. These should be compared to the target desktop ‘use case’ (i.e., call centre, knowledge worker, engineer) to determine which architecture is the best fit.


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Conclusion: Most organisations recognise the need to better align their IT environment to the business’s requirements, however many struggle to achieve this. A key step towards better alignment is the creation of an IT Strategic Plan. A “best practice” for creating this plan is to define a desired IT Future State that supports and enables the business objectives, and then perform a gap analysis between that IT Future State and the IT Current State to generate an IT Transformation Plan (i.e., IT strategies and IT projects).

Great IT Strategic Plans follow the principle of “Just Enough Planning, Just in Time”. They are very short and concise, have a well articulated “Future State”, and are action oriented, forward looking documents. Some common failings of IT Strategic Plans are too much detail (especially in the “Current State”) extensive justification of the decisions and detailed analysis of the history of the current business and IT circumstances.


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Conclusion: As the realisation dawns that x86 server virtualisation is a key component of a modern infrastructure stack, and not just an operating system feature, the major software vendors have rushed into this billion dollar market to stake out their claim1. While this will result in significantly increased levels of vendor FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) over the next 18 months, it will also significantly increase competition that will further lower cost and drive greater innovation.

Savvy IT organisations recognise that server virtualisation is the most important data centre infrastructure trend since the shift towards Wintel servers in the late ’90s and will leverage the vendor’s “gold fever” to their financial benefit. This will require experienced technologists who can navigate the FUD and seasoned negotiators who can safely drive a bargain with these vendors.


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Conclusion: Over the last 20 years data management has typically focused on structured data, and as a result most IT organisations now do a good job managing structured data and turning it into useful information that supports the business. However, many IT organisations have reached a tipping point where more than half of all their electronic data is unstructured, and the very high growth rates for unstructured data will ensure that this capacity balance rapidly shifts away from the traditional structured data “comfort zone”.

To cope with this rapid transition to unstructured data, IT organisations must learn to manage unstructured data as successfully as they currently manage structured data. To accomplish this, the IT organisation needs to work with the business to define a data management policy and then implement unstructured data management systems to enforce that policy. Since e-mail is usually the largest unstructured data repository, and often the de-facto records management system, we recommend starting with e-mail.


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Conclusion: Since the announcement by VMware of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) initiative there has been a strong resurgence in interest in Thin Desktops. While there is a business case for a Thin Desktop, the benefits are often overhyped and it is not the universal panacea for desktop deployment as portrayed by some vendors.

While nearly every organisation uses Citrix Presentation Server or Microsoft Terminal Services, only a minority (6%) use these as a strategic technology to deliver an entire desktop, while the majority simply use them as a tactical solution to specific application delivery issues. In spite of VMware’s incredible success with Server Virtualisation, VDI will most likely follow in the footsteps of Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Services and be limited to a tactical solution instead of being a replacement for traditional desktop deployment.


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Conclusion: Server virtualisation will continue to be one of the most important IT infrastructure trends for the next few years. However, the same cannot be said of storage virtualisation which is poorly defined, poorly understood and not widely used. Infrastructure managers must understand the realities of storage virtualisation, learn to separate vendor hype from facts, and discover where it can be applied to give real benefits.

Over the next 2 years network based storage virtualisation will remain a niche, while thin provisioning enjoys rapid adoption and becomes the storage virtualisation technique most talked about.


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Conclusion: With climate change a hot social issue, organisations with a “Social Responsibility” strategic objective are looking at ways to reduce their environmental impact and the IT organisation, like other areas of business, is expected to find ways to reduce their carbon foot print.

The data centre is a prime target for a few “quick wins” because in most organisations it houses a significant proportion of IT resources, and it is the area over which IT has the greatest control. IT organisations should start with short-term initiatives that are self-funding (i.e., payback period < 12 months) and which can be accomplished with little or no capital investment. With server 3-years power and cooling costs now comparable to server acquisition costs, Infrastructure Managers must look at optimising data centre energy efficiency.

In the last 18 months, many hardware vendors have jumped on the Green IT bandwagon to try and differentiate their offerings in a rapidly commodifying market. IT organisations must carefully evaluate vendors’ claims to separate the marketing hype from the reality. Purchase agreements or tender requests for ICT goods and services should explicitly require vendors to demonstrate how and where their products meet the buyer’s environmental requirements1.


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