Virtualization management expenditures will be one of the biggest issues for IT organizations this year, according to research group Gartner. In the past, IT departments focused on adding higher-level servers or more storage.
“Now those management tools are the key driver,” says Alan Dayley, managing vice president of the infrastructure software market research team for Gartner. “Virtualization is a nonstop train. Without proper management, it’s a train that can easily be derailed.”
As organizations experience management issues with virtualization, they are turning primarily to their manufacturers for solutions. VMware has responded by adding features that let IT departments provision, deploy, configure and maintain their virtual environments. For instance: The ability to move a running virtual machine from one physical host to another, dynamic workload balancing and instant provisioning are all features that allow IT staff to move resources around dynamically as demand changes for an application.
Offerings from software companies such as CA, BMC, HP and IBM also are available, as well as new products such as Hyperic HQ, which allows users to monitor all virtual machines from a single source, and SolarWinds’ Orion Network Performance Monitor which quickly detects, diagnoses and resolves performance issues.
The Environmental Protection Agency says manufacturers have been instrumental in the virtualization process and have offered vehicles for migration planning and technical training, as well as recommendations regarding deployment, configuration and security.
The EPA has used IBM LPAR since 2005 and has established a standard for x86/64 virtualization. They deployed storage virtualization and data deduplication technologies and use Cisco’s Wide Area Application Services to more efficiently use network bandwidth across the agency.
One issue that’s become a major challenge for IT organizations is virtual sprawl. Gartner’s Dayley says when IT staffs managed mostly physical boxes, it could take several weeks to bring up a system.
“Now it’s just a matter of a few mouse clicks,” Dayley says, adding that while this provisioning speed lets IT departments work faster, save on physical boxes and reduce energy costs, it also creates the potential for server sprawl.
“All of a sudden, where you might have had 500 physical servers, you have 800, 1,000 or 1,200 virtual machines because they’re so easy to bring up and utilize,” he says. “Trying to manage that has turned into a bit of a nightmare.”
Along with server sprawl, Dayley says issues such as capacity planning and migration management are putting pressure on IT staff.
“The bad habits in the physical world just get that much more magnified once they come to a virtual world because there are so many more moving parts, and IT staff just didn’t think about it,” Dayley explains.
For the Federal Aviation Administration, new software tools do make life easier. But when it comes to server virtualization projects, the management issues are more cultural than technical.
The percentage of CIOs who say they are avoiding using virtualization for certain mission-critical workloads because of concerns about backup and recovery.
SOURCE: “VMware Data Protection Report 2010,” Veeam
“I’m not seeing a lot of the [software] management issues,” says Dave Bowen, the FAA’s CIO and assistant administrator for information services.
Bowen says the FAA uses a common and widely used management tool. He can’t point to any issues the agency has experienced in managing its virtual servers.
However, the FAA’s top technology official can point to something else that may explain the agency’s success: careful planning, collaboration and some operating principles that the FAA put in place around its governance processes.
The CIO council oversees enterprisewide initiatives, including virtualization management. “We have a charter for that council and a set of operating principles that all of the CIOs have agreed to,” Bowen says.
“If the need for a new tool is identified, the council agrees on which tool will be used throughout the enterprise. The barriers to adoption aren’t technical, they’re primarily cultural.”