CIO Symmetry

Oct 14 2010   6:03PM GMT

Virtual data center: A panacea for governance

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Virtualization, to me, is in many ways like vitamin supplements: Whether you want to save money, pool resources or make employees more productive, there’s a virtualization pill for that.

What I hadn’t considered was how developing a virtual data center — from apps and desktop through servers, storage and networks — could be somewhat of a cure-all for governance.

Your employees want to use an iPhone, but the approved smartphone is a BlackBerry? No problem. Your business managers want to use iPads, but you offer only Dell laptops? A virtual data center has you covered.

Take for instance Joe Surber, vice president and CIO of Atlanta-based natural gas distributor AGL Resources. Surber sees the virtual PC infrastructure that his company is building as a “real game changer” that will allow IT to let employees choose their own devices.

This may not be a cure-all for device management, but it’s a step in the right direction. CIOs are struggling with lockdown, versus a governance policy that allows for exceptions as cloud services and mobile devices creep in under the radar.

Virtualization lets IT govern, but behind the scenes. In the case of desktop virtualization, IT still controls what data those devices of choice can access. It’s what marketing people like to call a “win, win” for IT and users.

AGL was a BlackBerry shop, but iPhones and Androids were popping up everywhere. Surber’s IT team created an application that allows just about any mobile device to access the company’s application servers — that reside in its virtual data center. “So we can say ‘Yes, you can use that device, but we’re not going to pay for it,’” Surber said.

This leads to another virtualization pill: the ability for IT to say yes more often, while offloading some costs on the business.

I’m sure I’m missing ways virtualization is — and is not — a cure all, but I think virtualization is getting IT closer to staying ahead of the curve, as far as accommodating users’ needs.

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