What we often forget when implementing virtualization solutions

“The beginning is the half of every action”
Someone once told me “There is nothing more permanent than temporarily.” (roughly translated), and it’s something you often see in the IT world. A server goes down, let’s do the quick fix now and do the in depth analysis/coding later. The last step is often moved the the refrigerator called “on hold”-, “TODO” or “when we have time” boxes.

The following situation might ring some bells:

X : How de we save on infrastructure costs?
Y : Maybe by virtualizing our infrastructure?
X : Sounds good, how do we do this?
Y : Let’s first try our lab/development/staging environment?
X : And if that works move all servers to it!

Help!!! My virtual servers are breeding like rabbits
Most companies who’ve started with virtualizations, like for example VmWare of Xen, have found themselves rushing (or stumbling) way too fast in this new enviroment. The virtual infrastructure needs the same amount of thought as your physical infrastructure. It’s not because a virtual server is created at a fraction of the time it would take a physical one, that one shouldn’t follow the same steps.

Perhaps the sexiest aspect of virtualization is its speed: You can create VMs in minutes, move them around easily, and deliver new computing power to the business side in a day instead of weeks. It’s fun to drive fast. But slow down long enough to think about making virtualization part of your existing IT processes

It’s not because it’s virtual that it doesn’t need to be managed

How do you control server sprawl; is it a mere click of the button, or do you have a procedure you have to follow? Virtual sprawl is a huge problem. It can cause lag times in the ability to manage, maintain performance and provision. In addition the unexpected management costs will arise if your number of VMs gets out of hand.

“Managing a server? That shouldn’t take long, what’s there to do?” Ever heard this one? That’s the cry of someone who has no clue about IT operations. Every server needs to be (automatically) maintained, supported, back upped (with the possibility to be restored), purchased (virtually), … Each step consumes the IT budget.

Ehm, yeah, well, … I got the plans here somewhere
Do you start building a house without a plan? Some people might, but do you really want to forget to build the kitchen (or bedroom, for those who eat out a lot)? Which impact does your virtual infrastructure have on:

  • Network : Ensure good isolation across network segments
  • Storage : Watch how you provision storage
  • High Availability : Do you have enough resources available for an outage?
  • Consider technical issues : Performance impact of the VmWare Virtual Switch

References:
How to Find and Fix 10 Real Security Threats on Your Virtual Servers
Future Threats to Virtualization Security: Fact vs. Fiction
How To Do Storage Virtualization Right

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