How virtualization managers can implement chargebacks

To achieve virtualization efficiency, data center owners may be satisfied with the lesser element of showback

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If an organization isn't ready to implement a full chargeback solution because of accounting or political pressures, it could always start that journey by implementing something called "showback." Instead of throwing out a dollar amount at the business unit, this step allows the IT organization to show a department the amount of resources they are actually consuming. Doing so helps promote the early stages of cost awareness in regard to IT assets.

Brian Radovich, group product manager at SolarWinds, said his company is hearing a lot from customers about chargeback and showback, though this capability may not be the highest item on their punch lists.

"For the customers who need it, it's an important feature on their list," said Radovich. "The general trend is more people are using chargeback, and as the cloud creeps into their infrastructure, chargeback and showback will become critical to controlling costs."

To respond to the showback challenge, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager offers its customers a set of dashboards for services, departments, users, and more that can show a company exactly how many resources (CPU, memory, network and storage) they are consuming in their infrastructure. They take that concept of showback one step further, expanding into chargeback by allowing their customers to assign dollar amounts to these resources so that they can expose actual costs on the dashboard.

In 2012, server virtualization is no longer a mystical black box that requires a special degree to implement the technology. Because virtualization has made it so easy to deploy and spin up new machines, people tend to forget that these VMs are consuming real resources. Showback has become a great way to help prevent or curb virtual machine sprawl and keep people honest. That's why showback has also been referred to as "shameback."

"I think the more interesting trend is around measuring virtual infrastructure efficiency," said Semple. "We have been working with several large VM consumers and the head of IT wants to know, 'is my environment efficient?' Directors of infrastructure have money, data center space, power, and people. Measuring how efficiently they are using these four resources to deliver required IT services I think is where the conversation needs to go regardless of whether we are talking about a private cloud or a standard virtualized environment."

Semple added that standard measures like VM density or resource utilization just don't tell the story in a meaningful way, so his company is working on ways to express efficiency and help directors of IT improve efficiency over time whether they are doing chargeback, showback, or neither in their environments.

To the folks at Dell, showback and optimization are related. Any IT organization attempting to rightsize allocation of resources to VMs can use showback reports to not only show that VMs are costing money, but that in some cases, application owners are wasting IT resources by requesting more memory or CPUs than required. Therefore, showback reporting has provided significant benefit to IT teams when budgeting -- especially when requesting additional capex.

If you can't show people what's out there, and how much of it they are using or wasting, then it's hard to hold them accountable and even more difficult to advance down the virtualization maturity model. But as you can see, that also means you don't have to stick a price tag on things with a full-blown chargeback solution either -- at least not right away.

This article, "How virtualization managers can implement chargebacks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Marshall's Virtualization Report blog and follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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