How will you pay for your virtualised applications?

Does an evaluation for a virtualisation project need to be only an exercise in understanding if X hosts will on Y servers? Will you be able to to virtualize every service you deliver? Are new applications required? What are your existing service-levels and requirements across your application portfolio? Do you meet them? Will you? Do they to be changed?

Virtualisation technologies can save costs: by reducing hardware costs (through consolidation) and management costs (through centralisation and automation) and improving productivity (through improved availability and faster delivery). However to maintain that cost saving you need not only to effectively assess, design and deploy, but – and this is key – manage the service delivery – be that your from own infrastructure, or from suppliers outside of your network. Centralisation allows resources to be consolidated but in attaining that, IT increasingly becomes more responsible for performance than when they were supporting a distributed PC environment. Measuring and ensuring service levels for these applications can get very expensive and needs to be considered as a part of the cost of a virtualization project.

That said, it is likely virtualisation isn’t new to your environment – that you’ve already got a number of services that have been virtualised to some extent. You may have have purchased web based services or Terminal Services/Citrix based services from third parties. You may have your own such services grown organically over time delivering different departmental and organisational solutions. You may have added, or be adding VDI to compliment existing desktop services, and you may be considering moving away from traditionally installed applications and deploy virtualised apps. Even if you’ve not yet begun investigating how virtualisation can help your organisation its true to say that one single technology is rarely capable of meeting your enterprise desktop needs.

The number of ways that organizations can and do deliver IT services to users is large and as such, the ability to see across all these different silos of technology becomes vital. Without information on how users actually use IT services, organizations cannot compare their desktop IT strategies with other approaches:  missing out on potential cost-savings or opportunities to increase IT efficiency. A best practice for the future will be to look across the entire IT infrastructure, measuring how hard resources are working, and to use this data to define how best to source and deliver application services through to the end-user.

To attempt to meet this, Centrix Software, a provider of solutions that optimize the way IT infrastructures deliver applications, services and content, have announced the release of Centrix WorkSpace iQ.   WorkSpace iQ is designed to give organisations a complete overview of their IT resources and how they are being used across the data centre. Centrix Software approach is looks to consider not only the assessment of how to virtualize applications, but how best to evaluate different strategic IT decisions that affect the cost of delivering applications services to users.

VDI is the answer isn’t it?

To deliver desktops? Not always.  There are very effective tools available for migrating your user’s desktop workspaces to a VDI platform. Liquidware Labs, for instance, have a comprehensive diagnostics platform – Stratusphere – that allows you to validate information on machines, users, and application workloads and requirements to assess factors such as end user experience, machine performance, network, performance and storage requirements to determine what will be the best. Such tools enable organisation to effectively deploy a VDI solution. But, as we discussed in our Enterprise Desktop Strategy white-paper, not all applications can be moved to a VDI environment – and a VDI environment is not best suited to all applications. This undertaking needs a different type of analysis:  AppDNA’s AppTitude for example, will not only focus on compatibility management (i.e. will this application work in a virtualised environment),  but can give an indication using their “Best-Fit Manager” to show which platform or serving strategy is most appropriate for your application estate. While VDI can help you manage your desktop  environment better – your desktop is a platform to display your applications. How are you assessing the cost of maintaining those applications once deployed.

What does WorkSpace iQ Do?

Workspace iQ is part of a Centrix Software’s Workspace 4.5 a platform designed to reduce the cost of delivering applications and content whether physical, virtual, hosted, or web

WorkSpace iQ provides a centralized, aggregated monitoring, reporting and trending on application usage with customizable billing and charge-back capabilities. It can utilise existing performance management data sources, or collects information using it’s own agents to deliver application usage data from different technology silos e.g. Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, VMware View, local applications and internal and external web-based applications. This allows the user to centrally monitor and report on
underutilized and over deployed applications and server-based computing infrastructure across the enterprise. Having this Information about the performance, demand and cost profiles across all platforms enables not only optimization, but also informed, intelligent platform choices to be made.

However, it is fair to say that to gain the best understanding of application usage Workspace iQ needs to be teamed with Centrix Software’s other Workspace component – Workspace Universal. With Workspace Universal you have the facility to aggregate resources originating from multiple vendor systems, including published applications and virtual desktops from Citrix, Microsoft, Quest or VMware, web applications and local Windows applications. Entire application estates can be catalogued, to provide a convenient way of organizing software services. Workspace Universal is intended to give you greater control over application deployment to users allowing users to find resources quickly and easily across disparate infrastructures. Applications can be assigned to users or user groups and made available instantly through a browser-based user workspace.

Is it all about the Cloud?

Many vendors have seen an opportunity with virtualisation as a foundation technology to deliver “Cloud Services” – i.e. delivery of services across the Internet. Oddly, for many consumers, “Cloud” computing is “blue sky” thinking. Should your business be able to overcome regulatory, security and privacy challenges that sharing services in ‘the cloud’ currently give – your business is likely to have a set of applications that has service levels that may be a challenge to deliver via the Internet. It is possible a fully “cloud based” environment will never come to fruition in your business. Yet to be effective to your organisation, your IT services need to validate they are delivering efficiently to the business, not just efficiently using the hardware. Introducing services that provide you with metrics to understand how much applications cost will helps CIOs understand if adopting a new service will really save money;  IT administrators to understand what it costs to deliver services; and service managers to understand what the impact of switching services could be.

Virtualisation vendors are offering tools to help understand how users experience of applications is impacted, and what the cost of delivering those applications may be. Citrix, for instance, have their EdgeSight product to give a consolidated view of application performance as experienced by the user: with versions to support not only their XenApp servers but also EndPoints (such as desktops – both physical and virtual) and web applications if delivered using their Netscaler devices. It will be interesting to see if VMWare actually do make use of RTO Software’s Pinpoint Application Performance Management tool.

Its IT Jim, but not as we know IT

In most enterprises today, IT is a cost centre not a profit centre. Business units often want detailed involvement in implementation plans, asset purchases and ownership: it is not unusual that requests for applications come in terms of functionality – not in terms of service levels. IT purchases are often funded on a project by project basis rather than buying into a service or requesting a service based on charge-back models.  As CIOs attempt to keep costs down this culture will undoubtedly need to change – with a IT providing a more service-oriented role backed by virtualization and automation.

With this release of Workspace iQ Centrix Software appear to be unique in endeavouring to aggregate information that can be used to deliver data that can help provide IT with improved costing information without relying on specific vendors solutions to be in place. Bear in mind however that to make full use of Workspace iQ Centrix recommend also deploying  their Universal content aggregation platform.

That said, it is likely that as more businesses adopt different technologies to deliver their services, the facility to measure and ensure that service levels are adhered to will be increasingly in demand.