Hardware optimize

Are operational considerations overlooked in virtualization?

Virtualization is a melding of many technologies and the operational aspect of this new technology may not be given enough attention, as Rick Vanover explains in this blog post.

There is a saying I’ve heard in virtualization circles that says something to the effect of "virtualization will show you how to get pregnant, but not how to raise a child." In many senses that is true. I can’t think of a technology where you can more rapidly get into trouble by not considering some critical factors first. This is different than normal IT processes in that in a non-virtualized world, totally by chance of over-provisioning, we simply can avoid many potential issues that virtualization can bring.

All of that aside, virtualization brings wonderful benefits to IT organizations. For starters, virtualization can reduce costs and increase capabilities of an organization’s infrastructure requirements. To achieve these benefits, there is a learning curve accompanied by many questions on the “who will” and “how will” various aspects of the business requirements along the way. Last year, I recommended a few books for virtualization, including VMware vSphere Design. This book was written by Scott Lowe (not to be confused with the TechRepublic contributor by the same name!), Maish Saidel-Keesing, and Forbes Guthrie. In the VMware vSphere Design book, one of the pillars of the content is the priority to addressing how the operational aspect of virtualization will be addressed in the design. The operational aspect is represented in Figure A: Figure A

I can’t agree more that this aspect needs to be addressed before technology is deployed and the stakeholders are depending on the infrastructure.

In my own personal experience, not just related to virtualization, I’ve dealt with situations where all of the requirements are not clearly defined. I don’t think I’m alone in that aspect, but with virtualization we really can’t deliver the best solution without all of the requirements properly defined. The ability to implement requirements about the operational aspects of a virtualized infrastructure are just as important as the technologies they deliver.

The takeaway is that not overlooking the operational aspects of virtualization can save us growing pains down the road. Specifically, the virtualization technology profile is a very agile offering if the organization has a plan about how to implement and leverage the technologies most effectively. I further see this as an area ripe for improvement since the initial wave of virtualization has appeared in many environments, but continues to reflect IT operational procedures of old.

How is the operational aspect of virtualization addressed in your organization? Is it cramping your ability to fully embrace virtualization? Share your biggest challenges below and let’s discuss them.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

5 comments
zyzygy
zyzygy

I'm a backups guy working exclusively with Tivoli Storage Manager from IBM since 1998. Recently I've seen multiple large shops get the Virtualization Religion and virtualize everything without adequate consideration of each apps real requirements. They particularly hate it when I tell them that the TSM backup server has to be on physical hardware. Mistakes I've seen are - VMing multiple SQL Server machines with one instance and a couple of databases each rather than running a big iron 3+1 cluster with multiple instances and more databases in each instance - and - virtualizing multiple Notes machines rather than running several Notes instances over a couple of real machines with app clusterimg. In these cases the big iron will out perform the VM solution handsomely and with much the same availability. As always in IT you need to look at the pros and cons for each app separately rather than jumping on the latest bandwagon.

cmwade1977
cmwade1977

In our case, virtulization did cost us more than if we bought individual servers, but this left us with capacity to add more servers. This was done intentionally, as we knew what some of our future requirements were going to be and in the long will save us money. We have also set up redundant hardware as well as virtual servers, if anything goes down, the other takes over instantly until we can get everything back up and running properly. There are two physical virtual machines, our storage has redundancy and there are two of each virtual server, we have redundant network switches, bottom line is everything has redundancies. Yes, this is costly, but look at how much downtime costs a company, even a small business could have a cost of $5,000 per hour of downtime and that is just in overhead costs, not talking about lost revenue.

grayknight
grayknight

Sadly, I've seen virtualization used to add more servers on less hardware with horrid results. They don't have enough money for hardware, so they just add another virtual server to an already overly full set of virtual servers. If you are running servers that require a lot of networking traffic, add more physical network adapters rather than make 8 virtual servers share one nic. You also need better redundancy so when hardware fails (which is known to happen) you don't lose all 8 servers for a week.

melbert09
melbert09

Excellent article. I keep on seeing organizations that seem to think that Virtualization will solve all their problems. But your absolutley right that you need to get the requirements down first before you go virtual and see if it makes sence for both cost and operations. Ive seen companies spend more money going virtual than what it would have cost by having individual servers because of they thought they were saving money.

b4real
b4real

Thanks, Melbert!