Are you ready for virtualization?

Virtualization appeals to IT executives looking to maximize data centre operations, but being successful at it requires a good deal of preparedness.

Industry analyst and consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) recently released a collection of ten key questions to ask before any virtualization project. Check them before starting a project of your own:

1.Do you have the skills to support virtualization? The lack of appropriate skills is ranked as potentially the biggest barrier to successful virtualization deployments. Before the technology is adopted, EMA recommends training staff, determining requirements, documenting expected changes and performing pilots of virtualization technology in small sample environments.

2.Are you ready for the politics virtualization could introduce? Because IT departments have existed in siloed groups for years, IT executives could face pushback in their efforts to win mainstream acceptance of virtualization technology. It is recommended that organizations put in reporting tools to show how virtualization is either helping performance or at the least not hurting departments by sharing resources.

3.Have you considered and can you accept the risks? Virtualization concentrates more users and applications on fewer, more complex, shared virtual environments. Because of that, the impact of hardware failure, human errors, and other problems are vastly magnified. Among its suggestions, the research group recommends enterprises develop detailed business continuity and disaster-recovery plans at all stages of the virtualization project.

4.How will your security systems hold up? Virtualization can introduce more security vulnerabilities than many organizations are prepared to tackle. IT executives must secure virtual machines as they do physical machines, and take extra steps to ensure the virtual environment is locked down.

5.Do you have compatible systems and applications? Some applications and systems do not mesh well with virtualization. For example, EMA cites applications with “highly efficient usage, severe requirement spikes or continuously high utilization of any resource.” Applications that interact directly with hardware will also stall a virtualization project, the firm says.

6.Do you have a capacity-planning discipline? Virtual server sprawl is a common result of virtualization deployments outgrowing their existing capacity. EMA recommends using detailed capacity-planning measures to make sure there is sufficient hardware and software resources to support the implementation and ensure it doesn’t get out of control.

7.Is there support for your environments? While many popular, packaged applications support virtualization, many applications do not. The research group recommends IT shops investigate which of their software and hardware platforms are supported and which might require them to upgrade before rolling out virtualization.

8.Can your network support it? Network and storage can represent potential bottlenecks for virtualization in the data center. Enterprise IT managers can try to address network and storage limitations with WAN-optimization technologies or by limiting the proliferation of images.

9.Can your management systems handle virtual environments? Virtualization increases the complexity of the overall environment and introduces challenging management issues. “Until management tools catch up with virtualization, the key to success is having not just tools but also strong process disciplines for discovery, performance management, configuration management, patch management, service-level management, provisioning, disaster recovery” and more, the report reads.

10.Does virtualization help you address business objectives? Perhaps the most overlooked factor in the rush to virtualization is aligning the technology implementation with specific business goals. To measure the success of a virtualization rollout, enterprise IT shops must first know their desired results before deploying the technology. EMA recommends IT managers plan for long-term strategic results and not use virtualization as a quick fix for a pressing pain point. 076157

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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