Virtualization came in fast and grew quickly, without going through the normal impact assessments that most technologies have to weather before deployment. One of the outcomes of this is that the impact of virtualization as a new data centre architecture has only surfaced during the growth phase, leading to problems and eventually applying the brakes to the whole initiative – virtual stall.
Management issues: The data centreis not a place that can be managed manually; there are too many elements to be checked, and too many independencies. And, while there are levels of automation built into the virtualization platform, they can be difficult to define and implement. The lack of automated monitoring, alerting and control becomes more and more of a problem as the overall level of virtualization in the data centre increases.
Process issues: Enterprise virtualization impacts a wide range of existing data centre processes, all of which need to be modified, replaced, or augmented. As long as the virtual environments are small and self-contained, these processes can be manipulated or ignored. But as the environment grows, it reaches a point when they have to be dealt with before real efficiencies can be reached. The more “process-mature” an organization is, the more quickly this point is reached.
Co-ordination issues: Virtualization crosses multiple silos and ultimately requires a level of co-operation and integration that is impossible to achieve with the traditional silo management structure. In addition, the first workloads to be virtualized tend to be less critical ones. However, as environments grow, higher-risk, higher-impact services are virtualized. These tend to have more stakeholders, more politics, more distributed infrastructures, and a greater cost of failure and downtime. Consequently, they require more coordination.
Smaller and more flexible companies haven’t experienced VM stall, yet (although they will eventually), and the very large and process-mature organizations generally implemented virtualization initiatives in a more controlled and integrated manner, so they are seeing less VM stall. The firms in between these two extremes, however, need to be concerned about stall.
These companies should look for tools and systems that can help increase visibility and simplify the management complexity of their environments. For some, this is all they will need to get them back on track. For others, the cultural issues will need to be addressed; silos will need to be broken down and new processes and procedures need to be implemented.
While much of the industry seems focused on VM sprawl right now, virtual stall has the bigger impact by far. The cost of virtual sprawl is underutilized resources, which, if left unattended, will result in incremental spending in order to accomplish growth objectives. Virtual stall, on the other hand, is the emergence of issues, which, if not dealt with, will prevent organizations from ever achieving their virtualization growth objectives.
Companies must think beyond the tactical deployment of a virtual infrastructure and shift to a more strategic approach. Treat virtualization as the data centre architecture that it actually is. As early as possible, involve data centre stakeholders and incorporate the needed reporting, management, and VM tracking systems that are necessary to scale a virtual environment safely and effectively. It’s the only way to ensure that your virtualization initiatives stay on track.