Trends in Virtualization Management

Industry Insights

Brian KirshTrends in Virtualization Management

A Q&A with Brian Kirsch

Brian Kirsch is an independent IT Architect and Instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, focusing primarily on the virtualization and storage environments. He has been in information technology for over 15 years and worked with VMware products for more than seven years. Brian holds multiple certifications from Microsoft, CommVault, VMware and EMC, and accepted a position in 2012 as a member of the VMUG Global Board of Directors.


StrataCloud: What have you learned from serving on the Board of the VMware Users Group?

Kirsch: When I accepted the board position, I was excited because it’s a chance to make a real impact. This is one of the most active user groups in the industry, with 100,000 active members and a big call is for member education, something I am very passionate about. When we hold local events, we get tremendous feedback from the engineers who attend on what they have learned and what they are going to take back to their companies. Every year it’s a bit different but this year the main issues were around customer struggling to keep up with the latest feature sets. There’s a very fast pace of development from VMware. So we have focused on increasing educational resources such as labs and demos.


StrataCloud: Is innovation coming from the vendors too fast for customers in this space, generally?

Kirsch: Not really. IT is not the driver. It’s the business driving the changes. The vendors have to help customers get there.


StrataCloud: How many tools are companies typically using to manage their virtual environments and what are the most important data points they are seeking (or should be) from those tools?

Kirsch: The primary infrastructure is either VMware or Microsoft and customers typically will use the native tools for deployment and management. Where they choose to add value, they’ll add other third-party tools for management and monitoring, so there usually is a mix. Tools aren’t needed just for metrics for today but the future, such as capacity planning. We are moving at the speed of business and that is not slowing down.


StrataCloud: Virtualization came along with the heady promise of saving corporate IT departments large percentages on IT infrastructure. Has this really happened in most cases?

Kirsch: It’s an interesting dilemma, because while virtualization has created data center cost savings through reducing the footprint, now we have asked IT to do more. They are tasked with supporting more applications, doing more development and then there are mobile apps. Ten years ago, no one was asking for all this, because it was impossible to manage. The new infrastructure has created the capability to do much more, but that means the savings are kind of a wash. As well, I don’t think it’s so much the pure cost savings, but it’s about moving faster. IT departments can enable more functionality for the business, which does create some sprawl, but organizations are getting more value from the same dollar.


StrataCloud: Beyond being more efficient, what is the greatest benefit to large organizations of adopting virtualization as much as possible across the data center and user environment?

Kirsch: It is the flexibility. You can stand up an environment for testing and destroy it the same day. It was not possible before virtualization. So companies can ensure an application is the right fit ahead of time, which is very useful. And if they can deploy an app quickly instead of in weeks, that is a huge advantage for the business.


StrataCloud: Do business people see that advantage?

Kirsch: They usually don’t even notice it, because the speed of business keeps advancing. It really is an amazing accomplishment but business people nowadays say they simply expect this kind of agile environment. It’s a bit taken for granted.


StrataCloud: Is that frustrating for IT people?

Kirsch: Yes but more importantly, IT people have had to adjust pretty dramatically over the past few years, taking on a wider range of duties. They need a much larger body of knowledge to do their job. They need to be able to adjust to what’s happening in minutes versus weeks. You see more people having trouble keeping up. It used to be that once you learned Windows you were good for your career. Now, new skills requirements crop up in months. OpenStack and Docker are good examples of that. We’re in a world of continual education.


StrataCloud: How has social media and the Web affected the way that you teach college students?

Kirsch: We offer a class on social media where students learn how to develop on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. We also promote it for building a network of peers. Being able to reach out to hundreds of people to ask a question is pretty amazing and it’s important because work is becoming a community activity. We try to help students understand how to use social media properly and how to leverage it in the professional world.