The rapid adoption of server virtualization at many globalenterprises is leading to the growing issue of “virtual stall,” according toAndi Mann, former Enterprise Management Associate analyst turned CA Inc. productmarketing executive.

This issue arises after organizations have grabbed the initialcost savings from consolidating their physical machines and are now runninginto other challenges such as a growing production environment, more pressureon staff and skills, and increasing line of business visibility.

Speaking at a session from VMworld 2010 in San Francisco,Mann cited CA data that showed 30 per cent of servers are virtualized at theaverage global enterprise. He added that this benchmark is also where mostcompanies first encounter this new virtualization hump.

While low-risk test/dev servers and Web servers might havebeen virtualized with tremendous results, Mann said, many mature virtualizationshops are having difficulty getting buy-in for existing servers that housecritical business apps, customer-facing apps, and other composite apps.

Knowing what you have

To get over “the hump,” Mann said organizations must firstgain more visibility into their environment. “You can’t manage what you can’tsee,” he said.

For Mann, visibility starts with being able to track andrecord where your VM hosts and guests are running and how they interact witheach other. This is especially important if a company has any desire to move toa hybrid, private/public cloud environment.

The audit trail should also extend to physical systems andapps, not just the VMs, he added. 

With this information, IT can create detailed inventorylists, recover unused machines and licences, and ultimately, deliver this datato business owners to gain additional virtualization support.

Jon Schulman, a senior systems engineer at McLean, Va.-basedSAIC Inc., said his company is working as a contractor to a joint U.S.Army/Navy data centre facility. He is using VMware products, such asvConfiguration Management to help manage his environment.

For Schulman, the fact that the software treats physical andvirtual infrastructure the same way is critical for his asset control needs.

“VMware is just another server brand to us,” he said. “That’show we want to think about it.”

Controlling what youhave

After getting a handle on what you have, Mann said,organizations can go beyond monitoring and start taking action. He advisedorganizations to look for tools that can take control of replication, migrationand continuity of VMs moving not just from physical to virtual infrastructure,but also between virtual servers.

It is also important to centralize control as much aspossible, he said. This is especially useful if your organization has dozens ofdifferent groups with varying levels of expertise.

“Centralizing the management and integrating it eases theskills requirements and the burden on staff,” Mann said.

Making good onguarantees

To get app owners to give up physical hardware and keep buyingin to more virtualization, IT needs to assure them they can deliver services.

“Performance is great, but performance isn’t necessarilygood or bad,” Mann said. “You don’t want to make sure you’re deliveringperformance. You want to deliver assurances.”

Mann said tracking CPU usage is a pretty pointless measurebecause it means nothing in terms of the performance of the apps themselves.

For instance, tracking and monitoring what your VMs aredoing how they’re interacting with each other can give IT the information itneeds to assure the business that they will be compliant with regulatory laws,he said.

A key feature to look for in a VM management tool, he said,is the ability to do auditing in real-time, as opposed to just trackinghistorical data.

Set it and forget it

The last piece of the puzzle, Mann said, is the ability toautomate all of these processes.

“If you’ve got enterprise architects provisioning virtualservers, you’re wasting your time,” he said. “Think about how you can userepeatable provisioning with reusable VM templates.”

Scheduled deprovisioning of VMs is a vital weapon in thebattle of VM sprawl, he said. Building the same repeatable process for creatingand patching VMs will make the overall system more efficient and help youreduce errors.

Mann’s advice to getting started with automation is tostandardize one or two good processes.

“If you standardize the two steps in a 50 step process,you’re getting there,” he said. “A thousand mile journey starts with afootstep.”

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