RSA London 2012: When virtualisation isn’t the right move

11 Oct 2012

Cesare Garlati, vice-president of mobile security at Trend Micro. Image via

Virtualisation is often seen as inevitable and a stepping stone towards using cloud in many businesses but there are times when it’s not the right thing for a company’s IT, delegates at the RSA London 2012 conference heard.

The technology usually gets good press for business benefits, such as reducing server maintenance costs and management overheads, and is now moving strongly into the desktop arena.

Speaking at the RSA 2012 conference in London yesterday, Cesare Garlati, vice-president of mobile security with Trend Micro, offered scenarios where companies should consider not virtualising.

In a variation of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” line, Garlati said organisations with static, predictable computing needs shouldn’t feel the pressure to upgrade. “If you have a legacy environment, why would you take the risk of changing?” he asked.

Addressing a common bugbear for many IT managers, he said there can be issues with software licensing schemes that are not supported on virtual machines. “There are still many grey areas and many unsolved situations. Is the licence that we buy compliant with what we deploy?” he said.

Cost cutting

One of virtualisation’s key selling points has been in the promise to cut the costs of running large amounts of physical servers in favour of reduced numbers of virtual machines. However, Garlati argued the business case is slightly more complicated than that.

“People don’t realise the type of project they are embarking on when they look at virtualisation. Unless you really have the money to pay for the overall integrated project, you had better stick with what you’ve got now. Any worthwhile IT project requires a budget, but if you don’t have a way to pay for the project, don’t start it,” he said.

“The project costs more than the individual licence components. I’ve seen many times where you start the project and it runs out of steam.”

The perception gap around cost saving is especially true of desktop virtualisation, Garlati added – unless companies are prepared to let staff use their own devices. He posed the question that IT departments need to ask – what BYOD really means to their organisation from a financial and economic perspective.

“Typical VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] is done in situations where the company still provides the hardware. You still have to buy a tablet or a thin client, and manage and secure it, too,” he said.  

“Virtual desktops are great for security and compliance, but they are not a lower-cost option for all types of employees. There are many important benefits, but you’re not going to save money, that’s for sure.”

Rather than simply embracing virtualisation wholesale, Garlati advised that before embarking on any projects, IT departments should identify the reasons for doing so, what systems are appropriate to be moved to the new infrastructure and to earmark those that aren’t.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic