Unisys untangles chargeback mess in IT

New suite automates the process of billing departments for computing time in a virtual environment

Unisys is introducing a software suite that, among other things, automates the process of billing departments for computing time in a virtual environment.

One feature of the new Unisys Enterprise Virtualization software suite, called "Real-Time Chargeback," calculates how to bill different departments of an enterprise when various applications are running simultaneously on the same physical server, said Alan Bender, vice president of Real-Time Infrastructure Solutions at Unisys.

"If you have 50, 60, 70 and maybe even greater than 100 [virtual] machines going on one platform, being able to provide the resource consumption data so that you can charge back those departments that are consuming the resources becomes very important," Bender said.

Before virtualization came along, an application used by the marketing department was installed on one server, another for finance was run on another server, and a third for human resources was run on yet another. Billing was relatively simple. But virtualization, though intended to make more efficient use of IT resources, has complicated chargebacks, said Julie Giera, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"It is a huge problem," said Giera. "I know of companies where there are three or four people whose sole job is working out what departments should be billed for what."

Other vendors sell software that calculates chargebacks on virtual systems, but they require separate software for mainframes, distributed networks and desktops "They don't fit together well," she said.

The chargeback feature is part of Unisys' Enterprise Virtualization suite, which helps companies set up and maintain a virtualized IT system, Bender said. It is optimized for the Unisys ES7000/one Enterprise Server and certified to run alongside VMware, the largest-selling brand of server virtualization software, from VMware Inc.

Also scheduled for release Monday, Unisys Enterprise Orchestration Solutions automatically allocates additional computer resources for particular applications as needed. If, for example, a cell phone company allocates server capacity to activate new customers' cell phones, it sets a time limit by which an activation must be completed, he said. If the system detects that it's taking longer than it should, the Orchestration software automatically assigns additional virtual or physical servers to the task.

The idea is to align the IT with the business processes of the company, Bender said. "You want to get to where a business process causes the infrastructure to adapt to a condition."

With these product launches, "Unisys is trying to join the race here," said Forrester's Giera. Adoption of virtualization by companies has picked up significantly in the last year, she said, with vendors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, CA, and now Unisys offering software and hardware.

While Unisys is well known as a high-end server vendor, albeit not at the sales volume of others, it has a very strong services business, she said.

These latest Unisys announcements are of "productized services," said Mary Johnston Turner, a vice president at research firm Ovum Summit.

"Unisys is harvesting its best practices around image deployment, migration and optimization and driving what would formerly have been professional services or IT staff time into automated best practices," Turner said.

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