One of you may be fired

Those of us old enough still remember the advertising slogan suggesting that ‘no one ever got fired for buying IBM’. And it was largely true. Many IT managers spent a lot of money on IBM systems as it appeared a risk free option – even if they were not always convinced it was the best solution for the business.  

The sentiment is not confined to IBM of course. More recently you could easily replace IBM with names such as Microsoft, Cisco or Dell, for example. The problem is that it is there are usually too many options available. And the same is true when it comes to virtualisation.

With a list of benefits as long as your arm, the decision to adopt a virtual desktop infrastructure in the first place seems a no brainer. But that’s where the easy decisions end. Once committed to virtualising the environment, many organisations quickly become bogged down with the sheer number of options, features and functionalities. 

So, rather than using an unbiased and well-researched approach to the platform selection process, far too many organisations are making snap judgements based on unfounded or irrelevant criteria – or simply on a name.

So who are the front runners? Unless IT managers have been living in the Himalayas for the last five years, they will certainly be aware of VMWare, Microsoft HyperV and Citrix with its XenDesktop. But there are also a number of other suppliers such as Quest and Sun with their own, lesser known offerings that should not be ruled out.

The problem often lies in the criteria organisations use to select their platforms. What they need to do is carefully detail what is required and which platform best meets those needs. After all, the main benefits of virtualisation are achieved in the long term and these will be negated if an unsuitable platform is selected in the first instance.

For example, when deliberating between Microsoft Hyper V and VMWare, it is easy to get caught up in comparisons between up-front cost and perceived compatibility with a current operational platform. HyperV may appear to be cheaper than VMWare at first glance, but this will only be the case for organisations for which it is the fit-for-purpose solution.

There are clearly many organisations where HyperV is the right choice, but elsewhere, while there may be initial savings to be made on up-front cost, these will soon be forgotten once the platform begins to come up short further down the line. Equally, choosing VMWare because of its reputation and positive press will be as costly for organisations that cannot hope to utilise its vast scope within the requirements of their environments – or for those that discover incompatibility issues later down the line when it is too late.

It is surprising how often companies get this wrong. So, before you reach for the cheque book, make sure you have looked carefully at what you are signing up for or take independent expert advice. At the very least you can then blame it on someone else. 

David Cowan

 

David Cowan, Head of Infrastructure

This article appeared in the Dec 2009 issue of Networking+

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