The Virtualization Adoption Journey – Key Elements

As covered in previous posts, a VMware team of 3 people and I spent the last 4 months listening to our customers and learning how they move through their virtualization journey.

In the next many posts, I will share what we learned and I am looking forward to learning even more from the customers who will take the time to read these posts and share their stories.

The Key Elements

Across all the interviews that we did, we found that there are three key elements that drive successful adoption of virtualization technology:

Confidence, Sponsorship and Value.

Virtualization Adoption - Key Elements

Virtualization Adoption - Key Elements

The basic idea is that Confidence and Sponsorship (or ownership, more on this in later posts) drive adoption. Adoption delivers value that comes in the form of

  1. New capabilities/outcomes that benefit IT and the business after completing a project (e.g. faster provisioning time, better up-time, interruption-less hardware maintenance…)
  2. Business Value (e.g. Capex and Opex savings) derived from the achieved virtualization outcomes

1) feeds IT confidence, 2 feeds  sponsorship confidence which in turns gives IT the ability to get better and better sponsorship over time and funding for virtualization projects.

These three key elements don’t drive adoption in a vacuum. Each project is triggered by some sort of business or technical event such as running out of data center space, a hardware refresh and so on. We are going to call these Business Triggers. We are going to talk about type of business triggers and their impact on virtualization adoption and stages extensively in future posts.

This process is actually not unlike other technology transformations that IT organizations have dealt with over time. I will spend the reminder of this post articulating the specifics of how these elements relates to virtualization technology and its adoption within our customers.


Confidence here refers to the confidence the IT team has in using virtualization technology. There is a clear correlation between IT confidence and how aggressive they virtualize their infrastructure.

Despite all the success that VMware products has had in the marketplace, there are still people out there that don’t understand virtualization and its value completely. I was one of them when I started here 6 months ago, virtualization sounded like magic to me. At times, this creates skepticism and resistance to adoption.  This is where the confidence and the credibility of the IT come into play.

IT teams who have been formally trained and have been deploying VMware technology successfully in the past are more effective at virtualizing increasingly more business critical systems and applications and break through skepticism. The ones who have adopted the more advanced VMware features such at SRM, Fault Tolerance, High Availability and SRM tend to have the highest virtualization percentages as they quickly move beyond just consolidating servers into providing better SLAs and disaster recovery capability for mission critical applications.  I will spend more time and posts to talk about this concept as it is one of the biggest lessons we learned from our customers.

Virtualization is much more than server consolidation. It is a transformational technology that allows IT to become nimbler, provide better application SLA (Service Level Agreement) and up-time for mission critical applications, lower their OPEX, shorten time to market for new projects and applications, simplify desktop management and ultimately increase their quality of life

I know that above sounds like a VMware marketing slogan, but it is in fact what we heard from customers and in the next few posts I will give you examples and anecdotes in their own words.

Here is a funny video produced by one of our customer that nicely makes the point:


The second key element of virtualization adoption is sponsorship. In the customers we interviewed, there is a direct and strong correlation between whether the CIO is  involved with the virtualization effort and the degree of virtualization they achieved (and in turn the business value they got in return).

Many virtualization projects start below the radar within the IT department. At this stage it is not even a matter of sponsorship but a matter of ownership. IT virtualizes what they own. They see the advantage, they apply the technology, the enjoy the benefits. They don’t have to ask for permission. As virtualization adoption grows, new levels of sponsorship are required for the journey to move forward.

One of the major inflection point is when IT virtualizes the first business application. I will spend a whole post on this later. The key here is that when IT does that, they have to deal with a different sponsor. The application owner. The person whose job is to deploy and operate a given business application such as Microsoft Exchange or SAP and often their counterpart and stakeholders on the LOB (Line Of Business) side.. This new level of sponsorship requires more sophistication on the part of IT both in term of confidence as well as understanding the different set of issues that application owners care about. They don’t care as much about consolidating servers. They care about how quickly they can deploy a new version of the application, how they can improve the application SLAs and up-time and so on. As IT goes on and virtualizes increasingly more mission critical applications and they realize value that goes way beyond server consolidation, the sponsorship goes all the way to the top of the organization, typically to the CIO.

Customers who have not successfully obtained these increasing levels of sponsorship, have stagnated at low level of virtualization or have moved their journey very slowly.


Value is the third key ingredient of a successful virtualization journey. Customers who have progressed steadily have done three main things related to value:

  1. They tracked value delivered by virtualization projects. Some established key metrics that they reported on the regular basis. Other did it project by project. Others built MBOs for their managers around virtualization targets.  In any event, most of the more successful customers have formally tracked value to be able to get better level of sponsorship and justify new projects (and why not, get a fatter bonus)
  2. They evolved the type of value they tracked over time. This means that as they progressed their journey, they went from tracking mainly hardware cost savings to also account for data center space, power and cooling savings, operational efficiency gains (e.g. faster provisioning), increased application uptime, all the way to desktop support efficiency and security, application life-cycle and quality improvement, and faster time to market for new applications.
  3. They shared and celebrated the value. Customers have shared both outcomes and value delivered by virtualization projects to their management team but also across organizational barriers to spread the word about the benefits of deploying virtualization technology and running business applications in a virtual environment. We have collected all sort of evangelization techniques in our interviews. I will share them on this blog later.

Some customers have actually gone back to previous projects and calculated the value delivered even months past the end of the project to show to themselves and their management the benefit of virtualization and get air cover to scale the effort going forward.

The key point here is that effective virtualization journeys require a strong and credible framework to track value over time. We do want to help our customers doing this and as part of the customer journey project we have enhanced our ROI calculator to enable customers to predict and then measure the business value delivered by virtualization projects.  This enhanced ROI calculator takes into account the different business triggers, the cost of adopting virtualization technology, the time it takes to deploy it over time, the type of assets being virtualized etc. Again, more on this later.

Ignore these Key Elements at Your Own Risk

Customers who have overlooked any of the above elements experienced either a slower journey, are still stuck at lower virtualization percentage or ran into painful setbacks.

Without the right level of competence and experience (which combined give you confidence) you can make technical mistakes which can stall your journey.

If you don’t track success, outcomes and value delivered, you are going to struggle to spread the word and break through potential skepticism.

If you don’t learn how to address the concerns of different type of application owners and stakeholders, you don’t get the right level of sponsorship which will ultimately slow down your journey.

We have seen a combination of all of the above is some of the customers we interviewed and we learned how they recovered from black eyes (it takes time BTW), what tactics they used to evangelize the value of virtualization and the internal cloud within the organization, how they used different layers of the VMware product portfolio to address application owners concerns.

The Adoption Workflow

As you will see in the next few posts, we came up with a model that we believe describes most customer virtualization journeys. For sure, it models the over 30 journeys of the customers we interviewed directly. .

Here I want to double click on the “Adoption” box in the figure above and introduce the workflow that describes an individual virtualization project.

Virtualization Adoption - Workflow

Virtualization Adoption - Workflow

  1. Business Triggers: a project is typically started in response to some sort of business or technical trigger. Good examples are: hardware refresh, operating system refresh, data center move or consolidation, mergers and acquisitions etc.
  2. VMware Functionality Ares: depending on the business trigger, the customer then selects the VMware product area that better responds to that trigger. For example a disaster recovery exposure would be addressed by the deployment of SRM, a desktop management challenge would be addressed by deploying VDI and so on
  3. Assets List: then, one needs to identify what type of assets and applications are being impacted.
  4. Confidence Check: At this point the question becomes: does IT have previous experience virtualizing these type of assets using the required VMware product areas? If not, then training, a proof of concept (POC) or consulting is required.
  5. Obstacles: once the confidence is there, it is a question of addressing obstacles (do we have the right storage solution? are all stake holders comfortable? …),
  6. Best Practices: then applying best practices for the project at stake (in this day and age, we are typically hard pressed to find applications that have not been successfully virtualized by somebody out there)
  7. Outcome+Value Calculation: At the end of the project, one must assess the project outcomes (faster provisioning, better uptime, increased capacity for future growth etc) and calculate the business value delivered by these outcomes
  8. Report, Evangelize, Celebrate: finally the team must celebrate their success and evangelize project outcomes and value delivered across peer organizations and with upper management.

We found that most projects can be modelled this way. The two pictures above call out both the key elements that drive virtualization and the major factors that one has to consider when carrying out a virtualization project.

What is Next

In the next post I will cover the three stages of virtualization as we heard it from our customers and explain how the  dynamics between confidence, sponsorship and value change as the customer virtualization journey progresses over time across the three stages. We will also share the taxonomy we came up with based on our customer interviews to catalog business triggers, product functionality areas, capabilities/outcome, related metrics and the different type of value delivered by virtualization.

until then, ciao


8 thoughts on “The Virtualization Adoption Journey – Key Elements

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