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October 16, 2006

Goverance and lowering costs in data centers and development

I think many customers have cost problems in their data centers because of the complexity of the application platforms in use. Whats an application platform?

  • Hardware platform
  • Operating system configured to run on that hardware
  • Application hosting middleware (WebSphere, Weblogic etc)

These three factors have many combinations in data centers. Obviously, you will have quite a few types of server. This has gotten worse with the blade type solutions because they are revised frequently when compared with the big iron SMP boxes seen in data centers before. The operating system needs the right device drivers and may need patches because of bugs. The exact patches required may change if different applications are run on it.

Application hosting middleware also varies. Application A may be tested on WAS 6.0.2.7 and Application B might run on WAS 5.1.7 and the operating system used for 6.0.2.7 may not be supported for WAS 5.1.7. And so on.

This, obviously, is a major pain for customers. The testing and maintenance required for these various combinations cannot be underestimated.

What is governance?

Goverance is the simplification of this problem. How can it help?

Mandate a hardware level

This is greatly simplified through virtualization techniques available now. If virtualization is not available then it means mandating a specific box type with specific PCI cards at specific versions etc. This can be difficult. The virtual route is the way to go if at all possible.

Operating system mandate

Standardize on one operating system image. Obviously, with virtualization, this is possible as the virtual processors, network cards, video cards and storage cards are the same no matter what level of hardware the virtualization software is hosted on. This means a single operating system image is even possible.

Application server platform mandate

Specify all J2EE apps run on WAS 6.0.2.9 or some level and only change it infrequently. Many development teams won't like this, of course, because of some feature. If an application won't run on the standard platform then the operations side must figure out why and rev the platform. This may include the whole stack (OS image, app platform).

Summary

So, governance is and will become a necessary evil in order to control costs and add reliability. The fewer stacks you run, the more tested they will be and the more reliable they will be. Lots of platforms means less testing per platform. It's pretty simple. Plus, companies can provide developers with virtual machines with the stack installed. Developers can use products like EMCs VMPlayer to run those images on the desktop without the need to spend two days downloading products, fixes, installing them etc. Just copy a VM image from a network drive and use it, done. Takes as long as the copy does.

Goverance has the potential to offer significant productivity gains in the development area as well as in the operations area. Companies should look at making goverance a priority and try to use it to lower costs as well as improve productivity both in the data center and in the development teams.

October 16, 2006 in virtualization | Permalink

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