More R's for APM's Migration Uses
Virtual testimony: sans servers, sans apps

Virtual resources, real costs: VMware, Cloud

Cloud computing comparisonWhile doing stories on the Tomorrow of IT, virtualization of resources and platforms comes up a lot. In fact, the most popular choices for virtualization represent the today of IT for anyone budgeted for change. But for the company still tied to the traditional datacenter model, hosting an app on a cloud server or even virtualizing a processor might look like more distant futures. Their costs are very real, though, figures that represent a long-term investment that 3000 managers might find new.

Stromasys stories about the Charon HPA emulator for 3000 CPUs often feature VMware. The company's product manager Dave Clements says that VMware isn't essential to eliminating a physical 3000, replacing HP iron with a virtualized MPE server. A lot of the Charon customer base ends up using VMware, though.

Cloud has its costs to calculate, too. "A pretty good sized virtualized server in the cloud costs about $1,000 a month," Clements said. "We don't discourage it, but we don't sell it, either. We can do [cloud virtualization] but truth be known, it's not high on our list."

Budgets vary a great deal, and so $12,000 might look like a cost for a physical server where you only pay for it once every five years. A price for any virtualized software solution or a service could look out of reach for a smaller customer — plenty of those in the 3000 world — or a bargain for the big players (there are large corporations still in the 3000 user base today, too.). "Crazy expensive" is a phrase that's been tied to VMware. The company has a cost of ownership calculator that's educational, but even a five-server license is $16,000. Those dollars buy an IT manager the flexibility to host any array of platforms, though.

There is a small set of Charon users adopting VMware, according to Clements. "VMware is not a requirement for Charon," he said. "Most of our customers are on physical platforms. If VMware is available it can be used, unless there is a customer requirement for direct access to a physical device, like a tape drive."  

VMware has a cloud product line, too. Clouds come up in many stories in 2015. While interviewing Birket Foster for a story about Application Portfolio Management, he made this case for walking away from physical hardware costs.

If we were to own a fleet of cars or trucks, there'd be a fleet manager sitting at the table. They'd be able to tell me the current mileage on each of their cars, when the next oil change was due, and what it's costing them to maintain each car. Ask somebody the same kind of questions, about a server or anything in their IT fleet, and they have no idea. That's one of the reasons why as soon as they virtualize, they typically get to reduce the cost of their IT infrastructure by 30 percent, maybe as high as 60 percent — just by virtualizing.

Virtualization can be physical, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, or systems installed at Rackspace. Or it can be logical, like VMware as a platform for hosts, or Charon ready for MPE. Blending all three of these is the future of HP 3000 installations. The more virtualization you employ, of course, the more complex the solution becomes. Last week, HP customers and executives testified to keeping tech solutions simple.

Simple plus low-cost always had a price to offset though: paying people smart enough to make it reliable. "The hardware used to be expensive, and the people were cheap," Foster said. "Now, it's just the opposite."

What's offset these people costs are the standardizations for applications. Custom programming was a common choice while the 3000 was on the rise. Now applications can be considered off the shelf. Replacing a custom application with these off-shelf apps is a non-simple project. Most companies need help to do this. They engage virtual people — short-term consulting — to transform an app from custom to common. Then they can invest in the new datacenter tech: virtualization, with the blinking disk lights off in a co-located cloud datacenter.

At MB Foster, the company has an AWS version of its UDACentral software available. "We allow people to be able to migrate data through the cloud," Foster said. "A couple of times a year we test a new version to see how well UDACentral scales. We send a command to AWS to go from the two-processors we normally use to 128. We rent them for the two hours we do the testing. Building a server for that kind of test would be a lot of money invested, and not being used."

That's a physical expense, against virtual promises and opportunity, applied to real-world applications and workloads. There's a reason that the scope of virtualization is broad. Whether it will work in a datacenter's tomorrow is "it depends," but it seems like a test of the prospect is worth an investment — whether its virtualizing hardware to run MPE, or getting away from datacenter servers altogether. The former is the route for a homesteader, the latter a path made possible by migration.