There’s no doubt that server virtualization has had a tremendous impact on the IT operations of many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). For example, the benefits* have included:
- Reduced administrative costs
- Improved data resiliency
- Better application availability
- Greater business agility, e.g. faster time to market
- Increased disaster recovery readiness, and even
- Higher profitability and business growth
However, a recent survey report from VMWare and Forrester** suggests that SMBs may not be achieving the ROI they originally expected from virtualization. It also points to the fact that while the majority of SMBs expect their virtualized environments to grow, they are not able to optimize their server installations and are experiencing difficulties in meeting agreed-to IT service levels.
In particular, many SMBs are challenged to optimize the use of their existing servers. A major problem is lack of skilled resources. Partly this is due to the tight budget constraints that prevail in small and mid-sized companies. Partly it’s due to the difficulty of finding and hiring personnel with the right IT skills. The result is that there is a significant opportunity for MSPs to step into the breach and help.
The Forrester report indicates that the average SMB operates a hybrid-cloud environment. About half of their workloads are virtualized and Forrester expects further virtualization to occur, including the virtualization of strategic applications. Other research suggests that a majority of SMBs are now using public cloud services as well as private cloud services, including significant up-take of software-as-as-service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. Coupled with these changes operating budgets have been moving from IT to line-of-business managers over time.
Together these factors amount to a considerable set of challenges, particularly for IT in mid-sized organizations. For example:
- In virtualized environments applications share the processing, memory, storage and bandwidth resources made available by the host server. When one application begins to hog any of these resources performance can be impacted for the other applications. To overcome this, virtualized server loads need to be rebalanced on a frequent basis e.g. monthly. As installations grow this can be time consuming and impose unbudgeted costs for IT departments with constrained resources.
- To provide for IT service continuity during maintenance, critical applications performance, and rapid disaster recovery, many virtualized environments support the dynamic switching of applications between servers. The benefits are significant but there is also a substantial impact on visibility. In the past when each application ran on its own server, troubleshooting was comparatively easy. With dynamic switching, knowing where an application was running at the exact instant of a fault so that root cause can be determined, can be difficult to identify.
- Managing the performance of public cloud services is also challenging. While IaaS services, such as Amazon EC2, offer management APIs, most SaaS offerings do not provide management capabilities. The best that customers can expect from many of these services is availability guarantees. However, many SaaS applications run in the same kind of virtualized environments as their on-premise counterparts, which means they can be subject to the same kind of co-resident application instance interference. Yes they are available but the performance can definitely degrade during peak usage periods.
- One of the expectations from virtualization was that it would free IT resources to assist business counterparts make better informed technology decisions. However, judging by the results so far, this has been hard for many SMBs to achieve. IT resources have been reduced during the economic downturn. Plus there’s an expectation that virtualization and self-service private cloud capabilities should significantly improve IT productivity. Lacking resources, IT is now often placed in a position where it’s easier to decline a request than to support it. The result is that line-of-business managers may view IT as the department of “no” versus the department of “know”.
MSPs who offer advanced monitoring services and can take on the risk of providing availability (up-time)-based SLAs are in a great position to help. Firstly, they have the skilled resources that can quickly support the virtualization growth plans of SMBs and to help them optimize their server farm installations. Secondly, they have tools which enable them to track, monitor and manage critical application service levels across the entire infrastructure, including being able to keep track of applications as they migrate dynamically between different virtual machines and different servers. Thirdly, they can provide detailed reporting and analyses to aid discussions about the infrastructure investments needed to maintain SLAs and to inform business/IT decision making.
Tools such as Kaseya Traverse support proactive service-level monitoring, enabling MSPs (and enterprise customers) to get advance warning of pending issues (such as memory/storage/bandwidth constraints) so that they can remediate potential problems before they impact service levels. In addition, by tracking business services (such as supply chain applications) at the highest level, while still being able to drill-down to the appropriate server or virtual machine, Traverse allows MSPs to quickly and accurately identify route causes even in the most complex of environments. Add to that support for public cloud APIs, predictive analytics and a powerful reporting capability, and Traverse-equipped MSPs are primed to provide valuable support for today’s mid-sized companies and their hybrid-cloud environments.
By helping the IT departments of mid-sized companies meet their SLA mandates, MSPs can help free in-house IT staff to better respond to business requests, can bolster the reputation of IT within their own organizations, and can help provide the detailed intelligence needed for IT to add strong value in conversations regarding business innovation.
Learn more about how Kaseya technology can help you create advanced managed services.
Read our whitepaper, Proactive Service Level Monitoring: A Must Have for Advanced MSPs.
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