Virtualize for the Future

Priority Report: Data Center Solutions

Faced with a budget freeze proposal for federal discretionary spending, agency IT managers are looking to make their technology dollars stretch farther than ever. Virtualization of data-center resources is a step in the right direction.

By Cara Garretson

Standardization, flexibility, and consolidation – these are three ideas that federal IT managers must focus on now more than ever. Following the proposal for a three-year discretionary budget freeze by President Obama during his State of the Union speech in January, agencies are scrambling to figure out what such a spending hold would mean for them. For federal IT departments, it likely will mean a greater dependency on technologies that can be easily standardized on, are flexible enough to adapt to different scenarios and requirements, and can consolidate and utilize existing IT resources.

“Virtualization is simply a more efficient way to use servers and full data centers.”
IDC Government Insights’ 2010 State of the Union: Heating Up IT Investments During a Budget Freeze.

“With 2010 funding in place, federal agencies have a chance to work toward migration to new and hopefully more standardized systems that will give them greater flexibility for the future,” reads a report by IDC Government Insights entitled 2010 State of the Union: Heating Up IT Investments During a Budget Freeze. “Agencies should spend this year developing long-term migration and consolidation plans, while launching those programs that they are able to get out of the starting gate. Proving cost-cutting concepts on a few high-profile programs can help spark more investments down the road, even in tighter budget times.”

Real Benefits
Virtualization of data-center resources has shown to deliver some of the benefits that agencies are looking for today. By using virtualization to separate out applications from the hardware they run on, organizations can make better use of the servers they already have by running multiple applications on them, while at the same time easing server management, reducing energy consumption, and saving floor space. According to virtualization software maker VMware, organizations that implement virtualization typically save between 50 and 70 percent on their overall IT costs.

Agencies would be wise to spend money now in order to prepare for future spending freezes, the report continues, so that they don’t end up hamstringing operations in the long run. If agencies spend money now on well-thought-out technology upgrades that address current challenges, they can enhance their IT infrastructures with long-term fixes that can weather tighter budgets down the road. In addition to virtualizing data centers, IDC Government Insights recommends that agencies consider Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, customer-relationship management, Web-based services, collaborative interfaces, and IT dashboard technologies to help prepare for leaner times.

Consolidating IT resources through virtualization is not a new concept to federal agencies.  The Food and Drug Administration, the Defense Management Contract Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency are just a few organizations that have implemented virtualization software to consolidate hardware, minimize administration, and reduce maintenance costs.  With the possibility of federal budget freezes, agencies should plan to hasten the move away from legacy systems and toward standard platforms that can optimize IT resources, says the IDC Government Insights report.

“Now is the time to get on the IT systems migration path or get caught up in the freeze and risk certain death,” reads the report. “Virtualization is simply a more efficient way to use servers and full data centers.”