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Government has always been a complex morass of differing ideals, morals and motivations…but we’re not here to talk about political nuances.  The “complexity” that we’re concerned with centers on the IT technologies that our government uses every day to serve citizens, from network infrastructure to application management and monitoring tools.

 

There’s no debate that IT networks are becoming more complex. We surveyed more than 100 government IT professionals to find out what is driving this complexity and what can be done about it.

 

For this survey, we defined network complexity as “the continuously growing, increasingly complicated nature of the network due to new technologies (such as SDN, virtualization, etc.) as well as the ever-increasing responsibilities placed on IT professionals from an IT operations perspective (by supporting new service offerings such as cloud, mobility, etc.) and business operations perspective (such as security or compliance).” Based on this definition, more than 93 percent of respondents said that increased network complexity changed their IT role/responsibilities within the last three to five years.

 

So, what is the driving force behind this complexity? Really there are three factors – Technology, IT Operations, and Business Operations.

 

On the Technology side, “Smarter Equipment” (meaning you used to need three pieces of equipment to do what a single piece of equipment can do today) was consistently ranked highest in terms of a technology driving complexity. Looking at IT Operations, this idea of “smarter equipment” continues to impact complexity with mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) both ranking high on respondents’ lists of areas that increase network complexity. Both public and private cloud were included in the possible responses and both received tepid, middle of the road responses in terms of their impact putting them on par with feelings related to Voice over IP (VoIP).

 

On the Business Operations side, IT professionals also are being asked to take on additional responsibilities to more directly support business operations. The primary responsibility impacting complexity is Security. Security far outpaced Auditing and Compliance in terms of its impact on network complexity among government respondents.

 

Given that equipment is getting smarter and IT professionals are being asked to do more, it is not a huge surprise that our respondents want to get smarter themselves. 73 percent said that training IT staff was key to being as prepared as possible for growing network complexity. Security and understanding the business were the areas that respondents ranked as the most critical for training over the next five years. With this critical need for training 42 percent say it is difficult for them to gain approval for training from their company.

 

A presentation is available here that highlights the full survey results in detail.

We recently completed a survey on the impact and drivers of network complexity (detailed results can be found here) where 92% of IT pros indicated that increasing network complexity had impacted their role within the last 3 to 5 years. To any IT pro this is hardly surprising news, but what is interesting is the top drivers of this network complexity.

 

We broke the drivers into 3 categories:

  • Technology – new technologies promise to make IT simpler/better but we all know that this doesn’t always work out.
  • IT Operations – IT is always being asked to deliver new services, sometimes based on new technology, other times based on old technology.  But every new service requires work to run it well.
  • Business Operations – IT and business?  Yes, it’s true – business needs do drive IT and some cause more pain than others.

 

Technology

Within technology the top 2 drivers were smarter/more complex equipment and compute virtualization. The third most popular which fell somewhat significantly behind the first two was Software Defined Networking (SDN).  To me equipment complexity is interesting, it feels contradictory to the value proposition of smarter equipment – isn’t that supposed to make your life less complex, and save you time and money?  Perhaps the savings in hardware are being consumed by software and manpower costs required to manage the more complex gear.  SDN was also an interesting trend given how early in the deployment cycle we are, it seems that many folks are projecting how they think complexity will be impacted by SDN.

 

IT Operations

On the IT operations side I was surprised that BYOD and mobility ranked #1 and #2 for adding complexity to the delivery of IT services.  The ubiquity of mobile devices and the rate at which they’ve penetrated the work environment is amazing and likely caught many IT organizations off guard. Of course when the driver for a new IT service like mobility is senior management it’s tough to say no, so many folks charge forward and figure out the operational details after the fact.

 

Business Operations

Finally from a business operations standpoint security is the standout complexity driver.  From day zero threats to SIEM there’s no shortage of new things being added to the IT plate – and in case you didn’t know, security is every IT Pro’s problem not just the security team!

 

Getting Ahead of the Complexity

By now you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and understaffed, and it’s no surprise.  What is surprising is that the number one skill that is needed to address the challenges of network complexity is “understanding the business”.  The context that business knowledge provides in making the right decisions is amazing and the majority of you know it.  Throw all the technology at you that the industry can muster, but if you understand the business needs you can cut through the hype and predicted benefits and get down to brass tax.  Shortly behind the business understanding is network engineering, and information security – in our connected world those responses that make a lot of sense.

 

So how to get at these skills?  Training of course.  But it seems that your management still doesn’t understand the value of training as budget and time were the top 2 barriers to getting the help you needed. This is a continuing trend, at a time when management will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on hardware and software, spending the time and money to get trained right seems to require a two-thirds majority in congress.

 

So there you have it – the state of network complexity in 2013 – change is inevitable in the IT space and getting the training and development to stay ahead of the game is critical.

Got thoughts on this topic?  Let us know.

The debate is not new: VMware versus Hyper-V… Will Microsoft’s free Hyper-V capability ever be able to catch up with VMware in the hypervisor race?  This discussion has been going on for years now, but it’s rarely really reached down into the daily lives of VMware administrators. For many reasons, the answer was usually an easy one: VMware.


Hyper-V wasn’t really ready for production and didn’t have the critical capabilities needed to run evermore-demanding workloads.  It lacked comparable vMotion capabilities, couldn’t match VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduling functionality, and in particular was much more resource intensive.  Using Hyper-V was fine as long as the Windows team played with it in non-mission critical fringe activities or applications, but it never really rivaled VMware in the data center. 


However, the Hyper-V capabilities included with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 now change that discussion.  Many of the gaps have been eliminated or reduced, and in some cases, Microsoft has even jumped ahead of VMware.  And then there is the issue of price, as Hyper-V comes free with Windows Server 2012.  For a wide range of use cases, Hyper-V can be substantially cheaper than VMware.


In many instances, this new competitiveness is not making VMware admins happy.  Here are my Top 5 reasons why VMware admins don’t want Hyper-V to catch up:

 

  1. I know vSphere. I like vSphere.  Change is hard even if it is for the best.  VMware admins have been working with VMware hypervisor products for years, and so they know all the “ins and outs” of working with it based on years of experience.  Even if Hyper-V is equivalent, it would mean going back on a learning curve to figure it out.
  2. I don’t want the bean counters to tell me what to do.  Largely the decision to use Hyper-V is a financial one, not a technical one.  Few people are claiming the latest version has eclipsed VMware, the discussion is more around product parity.  That means someone other than the technical end-user is ultimately making the decision. 
  3. I don’t pay for it, so I don’t care.  Since admins are only indirectly affected by the cost of VMware licensing, this does not provide much incentive for making the switch. However, there is more potential impact than admins may realize here, as dollars spent on VMware licensing can eat up dollars for other things admins do care about—like extra servers or more storage.
  4. I don’t want Microsoft or the Windows team to own everything.  To be sure, VMware’s drive to develop and mature virtualization technologies brought a new balance to the server market where Microsoft was becoming more and more dominant.  Many people (admins included) simply don’t want to go back to the one-company-server-vendor world they’ve seen in the past.
  5. I’m not convinced it’s good enough.  While there is a lot of discussion about Hyper-V closing the gap with VMware, it is hard to translate that hype into feature/function reality of what that  means in day-to-day operations.  This is one area where SolarWinds can help (see below).


With the help of blogger and vExpert, Scott Lowe, SolarWinds is hosting an in-depth webcast (to be accompanied by a white paper from Scott) to discuss exactly how the latest version of Hyper-V 2012 compares to VMware 5.1, and what the resulting pro’s and con’s mean to the virtualization admin. The webcast is a free live event, so registration is encouraged sooner than later.

 

 

Webcast Event:  Hyper-V® 2012 vs. vSphere™ 5.1: Understanding the Differences
Featured Speaker:  Scott Lowe
Time & Date:   Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 10 a.m. Central
Overview: The webcast will walk through a comparison of the scalability and features of Hyper-V and VMware hypervisors, including an in-depth look at:

• Architecture & footprint

• CPU & memory management

• Storage capabilities

• Mobility & availability

 

 

 

Register Here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/472068609


Also, stay tuned for a companion whitepaper that will provide a detailed review of the both hypervisors.

The SMB market is considering virtualizing their servers more than ever. To ratify this trend, the recent State of SMB IT Report from SpiceWorks™ cites 72% of SMBs have adopted server virtualization in the second half of 2012, and this is expected to grow to 80% by the end of the first half of 2013.

 

Why this upward trend?

 

The obvious answer is SMBs are trying to get more performance and flexibility out of their existing server resources. Considering the rising cost of managing physical data centers, and adding more resources, and the impact of underutilizing server resources, virtualization is the best solution to achieve more out of less.

 

  • Virtualizing servers have left SMB IT teams to allocate resources wherever required and reclaim unused resources resulting in better resource utilization.
  • Server virtualization has also resulted in improved disaster recovery and high availability allowing admins to take VM snapshots at ease
  • A reduced server count also means a reduction in potential hardware failures and fewer physical servers for IT professionals to manage.

 

All this translates to ROI.

 

There is apprehension in the SMB server room about the cost of investment, virtualization being a new technology to venture in, the unidentified challenges that may spring up, whether the architecture is designed only for large enterprises, etc. Despite all these doubts, the growing demand of virtualization reinforces the fact that IT is evolving in the SMB space, and small- and mid-scale companies are coming forward with budgets to invest in newer technologies like virtualization and the cloud.

 

Virtualization is good for SMBs, right?

 

Yes, it is. Of course. No doubt.

 

Here comes the ‘but’ factor. With the adoption of new technologies like server virtualization, the data center foray opens up to various management challenges. Though management is generally easier with the virtual setup, it’s still a challenge for SMBs without the right equipment to help with monitoring the virtual infrastructure, alerting when something goes wrong, and managing allocation of CPU, memory, network and disk resources.

 

As companies try to leverage the cost benefit of implementing multi-vendor hypervisors, it becomes more difficult to get visibility into the heterogeneous virtual environment.

 

Get Visibility & Control

 

Using affordable and easy-to-use multi-vendor virtualization management tools, SMBs can:

 

  • Get VM to spindle visibility into VM, host, cluster and datastore performance issues
  • Identify the resource contention across your virtualized infrastructure
  • Diagnose storage I/O bottlenecks
  • Monitor VM sprawl issues
  • Perform VM rightsizing and capacity planning on your existing virtualized server environment to find how much more VMs can be added, and determine budget for adding more CPU, memory, network and storage resources
  • Use chargeback and showback in a virtual environment and help you control its growth, as well as track resource consumption

Virt.png

Virtualization is not a big risk for SMBs, and management will definitely not be a deterrent for as long as you have the right visibility into your virtual servers and take control of bottlenecks and performance issues to get the best bang for your buck.

 

Viva virtualization: SMBs and all!

Today, we released the results of a survey that looked into the adoption by UK and German SMEs of today’s key technology trends, specifically Cloud Computing and BYOD.  While the advantages of Cloud Computing and BYOD have been championed by larger enterprises, the study showed that SMEs are still yet to recognize and embrace its far-reaching benefits, despite standing to gain the most from these flexible and cost-effective solutions.

 

The study found that almost half of UK SMEs do not have a BYOD policy and worryingly those that permit it (24 per cent), said that it goes unmanaged by the IT department.  58 per cent of UK SMEs said that BYOD was not necessary for their business and 42 per cent considered it a security risk.  We think that there is a huge opportunity here for SMEs.  BYOD not only enables them to make significant cost savings, through reduced expenditure on supplying devices but can also lead to improved productivity and staff retention as they are familiar and comfortable using products of their choice.  Security concerns can be addressed through simple, clear policies.

 

When looking at Cloud Computing, over a third of UK organisations do not plan to adopt a cloud solution of any kind.  Thirty-nine (39%) per cent said that they do not trust cloud solutions, and a third said that they were unaware of the benefits Cloud Computing can bring to their business and saw it as irrelevant.  Again, Cloud Computing represents an opportunity for the SME as it enables them to be more flexible and responsive to market trends, whilst increasing productivity, decreasing costs and reducing the impact on the environment.

 

As the backbone of the UK economy, SMEs are under increased pressure to compete with global counterparts and operate within tighter budgets. The results of the previous survey in this series found that companies were investing in IT as a strategic business priority. However, a question needs to be asked as to whether they are investing in the most flexible and suitable IT solutions given the nature of the SME business.

 

Ultimately UK SMEs have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and adopt the right technology, such as Cloud Computing and BYOD, to not only serve them today but also grow with them in the future. This is the second in a series of surveys, which looked at the pressures facing IT managers today. We’ve also looked at which resources IT managers use to stay informed and up to date on the IT industry and whose advice they trust most when making IT software decisions.

 

For further details, and to see how this picture compares with businesses in Germany, check out the full survey here, or embedded below:

 

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