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The Art of Resource Reclamation

Increasing Efficiency with vRealize Operations & Proactive Capacity Management

By Alberto Martinez

“Become more efficient”, “reduce costs” and “sustainable growth” are common drivers in our customers’ strategies, both at a business and IT level. Today, these drivers are more pressing than ever as market competition increases and investment decreases. What are you doing at a virtual infrastructure level within your organization to support them?

This post will focus on a key capability that addresses all three drivers: proactive capacity management.

Proactive capacity management enables IT to reclaim resources that aren’t being used and balance utilization, effectively right-sizing the virtual infrastructure. This increase in efficiency will free up VMs that you can allocate to other projects, reducing costs and supporting growth.

Our experience in the field has proven that to successfully perform this exercise, you must first understand the following 3 key questions: the WHAT, the WHEN and the HOW.

What: Defining your Proactive Capacity Management

To proactively manage the capacity of your virtual infrastructure, you need to look at three areas:

  1. Resource Reclamation (oversized VMs)
    Reclaim CPU & memory that are not being used by VMs
  2. Virtual Machine Recertification (idle & powered off VMs)
    Rectify that the VMs are supporting a service (being used)
  3. Hot Spot Identification (stressed VMs)
    Identify VMs that are undersized and require more CPU or memory

Establishing a proactive capacity management process will efficiently right size your provisioned virtual infrastructure.  I explicitly refer to this as a “process” because right sizing is more about the correct engagement with your business than the technical activities.

When: Implementing proactive capacity at the correct moment

Proactive capacity management is not an activity to be performed during project lifecycle because at that point IT architects and / or Project Managers will provide (and pay for) VM sizing based on vendor recommendations, even though these may seem oversized at the time and will probably include conservative margins. Proactive capacity management should be performed once the VM has been provisioned, the project has been completed and a reasonable amount of time has passed. At that point, the Virtual team will be better placed to analyze the performance and behavior of that VM in your infrastructure.

Resource Reclamation and Proactive Capacity Management

For example, one of my customers determined that VM cost was considered depreciated after 4 years, moving the cost from project CAPEX to the Virtual team OPEX budget.  In that case, VMs whose period of life was greater than 4 years would be the best candidates to focus on when implementing proactive capacity.

How:   A 7 Step Process for Proactive Capacity Management

There is no “one size fits all” process for proactive capacity management, as each organization will have its own particularities, so customizing that process is key to success.  The process I have laid out below highlights the key steps in proactive capacity process which you shouldn’t miss, and what “configurations” should be applied based on your specific environment.

  1. Extract Reports from the vRealize Operations Tool (vROPs)
    Use the information available in vROPs reports about the vSphere environment as an input to the proactive capacity management process and make sure that you ignore those VMs that has gone through already the process (use vSphere tagging to identify them!). Agree on the scope of the analysis (environment, virtual platforms, dedicated zones such as DMZs or services such as databases) and identify key experienced individuals to run the process with deep knowledge on your vSphere environment & understanding on the lines of business.
  2. Analyze the Information Extracted
    Create a detailed list of candidates with the information extracted from vROPs including key information such as VM name, environment, Line of Business and action to be performed (oversized CPU / Mem, powered off, idle, stressed CPU /Mem). Include cost savings opportunities to each candidate (oversized, powered off, idle) or additional costs for stressed VMs. I´ve seen this process failing many times because communications were too technical!
  3. Engage with the VM Owner
    A big part of the process is interacting with those who are responsible for the VM.  First identify who to engage with (typically someone from a line of business or within the IT or Application Development organizations). Define what the engagement process will be (ask for approval, just inform them, directly do not engage with them). Finally, standardize the communications by using templates with cost savings information and detailed technical analysis so the person responsible for the VM is confident in your recommendation.
  4. Plan
    Once the approved list of candidates is finalized and you have engaged with the VM owners about when to implement the changes, consolidate those dates into a calendar that considers change windows and freezing periods. Create change requests to track those implementations and include roll-back plans accordingly (snapshots, revert resources reclaimed, etc.).
  5. Implement
    Perform the technical implementation of the proactive capacity management. Roll-back if there is any problem during the implementation, inform the VM owner about the status completion of the implementation (successful, failed, etc.) and set the appropriate VM tag (reclaimed OK, reclaimed FAILED).
  6. Monitor
    Define a reasonable period of time to monitor the performance of the updated VM and app / service. This could be anywhere from a week, 2 weeks, a month, and so on.  Use a vROPs custom dashboard to monitor the Health of those updated VMs.
    Capacity Management
  7. Report & Close
    Consolidate the information captured during the monitoring phase, create a detailed “Proactive Capacity Analysis” report and distribute it to the appropriate list of stakeholders. This list could include the application or service owner, IT management, etc.  The report should include achieved cost savings (approved and reclaimed candidates) and potential cost opportunities (rejected candidates).

Key Considerations for Implementing Proactive Capacity Management

As we’ve worked with customers to apply this methodology, our Operations Transformation Services team has identified some key common considerations that will drive the success of this initiative:

  • Start simple, test the process and then expand it to more complex environments. At the beginning you will have a large list of potential candidates, so start by executing the process fairly regularly, such as every week, with a small number of target VMs selected from a less risky environment, such as application development. It’s much easier to power off a VM in development than in production, don´t you think?  This way you will have more control over those workloads while you continue to refine the process.
  • Sponsorship is crucial to provide the correct level of empowerment to the Virtual They need this support in order to lead the process effectively and make the appropriate decisions.
  • Build a trustful relationship with the business by presenting consistent information and establishing confidence in the IT organization around the proactive capacity management process.
  • It’s not about cost savings today, it’s about cost savings tomorrow. Resource reclamation improves long term efficiency by increasing the pool of pre-provisioned resources with the reclaimed resources (freeing up physical hosts) and continuously executing the proactive capacity process to ensure rightsizing of the infrastructure.

If you are ready to optimize your virtual infrastructure through proactive capacity management or want to know more about this key IT infrastructure capability, the VMware Operations Transformation for Performance & Capacity Management service is a great place to start.  Reach out to your VMware representative and engage with the team to get started.

Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation EMEA practice and is based in Spain.

Increasing the Adoption of vRealize Operations Across Your IT Organization

Alberto Martinez-cropBy Alberto Martinez

As I visit customers, I have heard similar feedback about vRealize Operations (vROPs): “It’s a great product but we are not getting the best out of it.” The unfortunate reality is that they are probably right! There is often a large gap between the wide range of possibilities and functionalities that vROPs can offer to the SDDC/Cloud environment and the real way in which it´s being consumed. This could be preventing your IT organization from getting the best from the product and impacting your investment.  For many companies that investment is not insignificant, as it includes licensing, professional and educational services, and dedicated resources to manage it.

The challenges are often related to more than just technology and require looking at the operational aspects of the solution such as your specific operating model / environment, how your IT organization is structured or what IT processes you have defined and are running.

Our proposed approach to maximize the vROps usage within your environment

A consistent methodology is crucial if you want to maximize your investments in vROPs, and this will include the identification of improvement areas (formulated into a set of actionable recommendations) and the subsequent implementation of them into your IT organization:

vRealize Operations

  1. Understand your specific environment through a set of discovery workshops with the key stakeholders focused on your IT strategy & organization, your existing roles & responsibilities and your defined processes related to performance and capacity.
  2. Produce an assessment report with the key findings & early state recommendations.
  3. Consolidate & transform the assessment report content into a comprehensive set of proposed recommendations and roadmap.
    • Present assessment findings & roadmap to the executive team as a sponsorship checkpoint. This will reinforce commitment and will identify key initiatives.
  4. Implementation of the agreed recommendations across your IT organization.
    • Measure and validate the success of the implemented recommendations focusing on the utilization of vROps and the stakeholder´s feedback!

Based on our experience delivering this methodology across many customers, we have been able to identify some key common considerations that will drive the success of this initiative:

  • Every customer environment is specific: We see different levels of maturity across processes, political issues across the teams, change readiness of the IT organization, teams in siloes with collaboration issues, etc. That´s why the initial phases of the approach are critical for the success: the better we understand you, the better we will articulate the improvement recommendations and engage with the required impacted people!
  • Sponsorship is crucial to promote the benefits and break the resistance to change across the IT organization. Motivate your IT organization using a top-down approach. Effective communication is the key to success.
  • Stakeholder identification and involvement during the early stages of the assessment is key to ensure involvement and commitment and capture their unique viewpoint. Miss a key stakeholder and you will miss a key input!
  • Leverage existing initiatives that are in place or planned to start in the organization that can have an impact on vROps (e.g. application monitoring, log management, cloud transformation). This will facilitate expanding the adoption of vROps by integrating smoothly into your ecosystem.

What typical areas do we focus on when identifying recommendations for our customers?

After reading about the methodology and key considerations some of you might be thinking that this is nothing really new.  You may wonder what concrete examples of operational recommendations we can offer to enhance the adoption of vROps.

It is important that you first understand the methodology and how we normally get to those recommendations. It is a journey in which we discover information about our customers while at the same time educating and inspiring them to do things differently. If we present the recommendations directly missing this critical inspirational element, it is less likely that the transformation will be absorbed, and more likely that the implementation will fail.

Having reviewed the methodology and the key considerations, a high-level example of operational areas that we normally focus on may include:

  • Expanding the information in vRealize Operations across other teams in the IT organization (e.g. Level 1 Operators, Level 2 Admins, Business teams, DevOps groups).
  • Defining workflows in VMware Orchestrator that automate the execution of repetitive tasks and / or the resolution of detected events in vRealize Operations.
  • Expanding vRealize Operations across your existing monitoring architecture.
  • Standardizing the reactive capacity process to support incoming project demand requests (e.g. capacity policy, capacity & scalability plan, What-If scenarios).
  • Defining a business right sizing capability to drive the proactive capacity management including resource reclamation (undersized VMs), VM recertification (idle or powered off VMs) and hot spot identification (oversized VMs).
  • Defining a governance model to support the IT Infrastructure Capacity and foster the collaboration across systems, storage and networks teams.
  • Identifying any specific recommendations across the SDDC/Cloud environment (e.g. upgrade paths, backup & recovery strategy, training needs).
  • Identifying other future initiatives that could be critical to the success of your SDDC/Cloud strategy (e.g. cost models and IT business management strategy, disaster recovery strategies).

Sometimes it is important to step back from the day-to-day activities, analyze your current environment (including both the good practices and the areas of development), and then think about different ways to bring value to your existing solutions. And this is exactly why VMware offers our Ops Transformation Performance & Capacity Management services – to help our customers to maximize their vRealize Operations investments by driving them towards different ways of doing things…because if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results!

Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation EMEA practice and is based in Spain.

Top 5 Tips for Marketing Your Cloud Services

By Alberto Martinez

Alberto Martinez-cropA couple of years ago when I was working in Australia, one of my customers was starting to deliver cloud services to its external customers—mainly infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It was not a very mature market at that time though they knew what they had to do to promote those services: enable a marketing capability with a strong customer focus. As the IT organization was evolving its cloud service offering from a technology point of view, that marketing function was driving the change and ensuring customers recognized the value of their cloud.

One key takeaway from the recent Computerworld Forecast Study 2015 is that companies like yours are now investing (or are planning to invest) large portions of their IT budgets to enable a cloud service offering. In my previous blog entry, I briefly mentioned the key steps to define a process for marketing your cloud services within your organization in order to maximize ROI.

cover top tipsNow let´s take those steps to the next level of detail by considering the lessons learned and the critical success factors from those early adopters of cloud. Take a look at this brief: Top 5 Tips for Marketing Your Cloud Services. I think you’ll find some very useful tips for building a marketing capability for your cloud service offering.

Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in Spain.

4 Steps to Better Market Your Cloud Services

By Alberto Martinez

Alberto Martinez-cropSuccessful cloud providers invest in marketing their services: promoting them, showing the value to customers, implementing strong pricing campaigns—and they understand how to rapidly adapt to changing market demands. But what prevents your internal IT organization from defining an effective marketing strategy to be more competitive and foster your cloud investments? And more importantly, how should you approach this effort to ensure success?

When moving to a cloud environment, most of the IT organizations that I work with focus on defining processes such as provisioning, support, or capacity, but forget about how to market the services they will be delivering and communicate their value to their customers. The same IT organizations end up with a private cloud infrastructure without clear target customers or, even worse, their cloud services are not used by the lines of business, resulting in a poor return on investment (ROI).

To realize the full ROI that enterprises are looking for from their cloud investments, the IT organization needs to drive the uptake of those services and persuade the lines of business away from using external service providers (shadow IT) or alternative legacy internal service provision options.

In order to mitigate those situations and increase their integration with the business, I advise my clients to define a consistent approach—as outlined below—to market their (internal or external) cloud services.

Defining Your Cloud Services Marketing Strategy
The approach to defining a cloud service marketing strategy must be innovative and not follow the traditional approaches. You need to apply a special focus on your customers in order to build a stronger relationship between your IT organization and the lines of business. That innovative approach has to contain similar characteristics as those of your cloud environment —simple and agile while powerful and impactful.

Below are four steps your IT organization can follow when defining a cloud services marketing strategy:

4 steps

  1. Define a service marketing strategy. As an essential initial activity, the key elements of the marketing strategy have to be defined with your CIO and leverage the expertise of your CMO and his/her marketing organization (experience, models, tools, and so forth). Those elements include market research, branding, pricing, differentiation, and competition.
  2. Create a communications plan. As my colleague Alex Salicrup wrote recently in this blog, communication is the key pillar to a successful IT provider. Define an effective communications plan for your cloud that will communicate its unique value to your customers and why they have to believe that differentiation is real (“reason to believe”). Your plan must define at a minimum what information will be communicated, how it will be communicated, as well as when it will be distributed and to which audience. Always keep in mind to exclude any technical information from the marketing materials.
  3. Develop marketing campaigns. One mechanism to create new favorable consumer perceptions of your cloud services is the marketing campaign. When developing tailored campaigns, you must identify what you are expecting from the campaign, what your customers can expect, what the impact will be on the audience, and how you will measure success. Measuring the success of your marketing campaigns is key to knowing the impact they had on your targeted audience.
  4. Measure. Benchmark your cloud environment against your competition, and set achievable actions to improve the value to business (always provide the best to your customers!).

Bridging the Gap Between the Cloud and Marketing Organizations

Establishing an IT services marketing capability is not just about defining the above steps—it’s also about your people in your organization and how they will execute upon those activities. To be successful, you need a strong integration between your IT organization and the marketing organization at two levels:

  1. Executive level: While defining the marketing strategy for your cloud environment, both your CIO and CMO have to work in tandem to ensure consistency with the business strategy. This will lead to the cloud services vision or value proposition, its unique value including differentiating factors, and the four steps previously described.
  2. Departmental lead/individual contributor level: Once you have defined your strategy, your IT organization—through cloud tenant operations—will have to work together with at a minimum two teams: 1) the marketing communications team to execute your cloud services communications plan, and 2) with the field marketing team to develop the marketing campaigns and success measurements.

Bridging the gap between the IT and marketing organizations will encourage an open environment of collaboration. I recommend to assign champions to integrate both areas, whose responsibility will be to support the promotion of the cloud services whilst leveraging the IT organization´s functions and expertise.

In summary, an effective cloud services marketing strategy promotes the value of your services and drives the adoption of those services within the lines of business. Start your effort early and with a consistent approach, so you can compete effectively against other cloud providers and achieve the ROI the business is looking for from its cloud investments.

Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in Spain.