VM Stall: How to Avoid A Sneaky Virtualization Project Enemy

Cost and organizational mistakes can bring virtualization projects to a virtual stall at dangerous times. Consider this expert advice on how to keep your virtualization project moving through four key phases.

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Phase 3: Process automation

Restricting sprawl doesn't keep most companies moving on ambitious migrations, Wolf says.

The real advantage of virtual infrastructures is flexibility, and to ensure it, IT has to be able to use VM mobility, detailed resource management, automated provisioning and change management, or the whole infrastructure won't keep working efficiently, he says.

The measure here should no longer be how high the utilization of a single server or group of VMs is in running one application, but how consistently high the utilization of the whole data center has become, Staten says.

That requires almost real-time awareness and management of data-center resources, which means being able to instrument, monitor and allocate resources to optimize performance for each workload, each server, each data center location and each physical server, according to Gartner's 2009 virtualization best-practices analysis.

Performance optimization is just one part of the equation, though, Chen says.

Costs rise dramatically with overuse or unsupervised use of licenses, not just the wasteful launch of VMs, he says.

Many companies are renegotiating their enterprise license agreements specifically for that reason, Staten says. It's too easy for end users to launch a server or application instance that takes up licenses for the OS, application and database, use it for a day, then leave it running and launch another the next morning.

Unfortunately, according to a 2010 IDC study, 25 percent of IT organizations manage servers and storage manually, only 30 percent consider datacenter operational costs to be a priority, and only 25 percent are consistently concerned about software license costs.

Fewer than a third of IT managers worldwide — 31 percent — consider integrating server, storage and network management for virtualized infrastructures a prime concern.

Many organizations recognize the potential benefits of granular, consolidated management of virtual infrastructures, but haven't been able to accomplish it themselves, partly because of the limited availability of tools that can handle the requirement, partly because their organizations haven't advanced their thinking enough to be confident in their ability to accomplish it, according to Galen Schreck, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.

Without granular resource-management and high-level policy based management, however, most organizations are either going to stall below the 50 percent mark in virtual migrations, or waste far more money and effort than they should getting slowly beyond that barrier, Schreck says.

Phase 4: Cost efficiency, chargeback

Despite the lack of granular resource allocation, sophisticated policy based management or even a long-range capacity management plan at most companies, 36 of every 100 dollars spent on physical servers in 2014 will go to hardware intended to host virtual servers, according to a December study from IDC.

The 2.2 million physical servers that figure represents will actually run 18.4 million servers, at an average of 8.5 VMs per host by 2014, the study predicted.

The number of those servers will drive changes in the way IT does its job, but the $19 billion cost will change the way it reports its spending to the rest of the business, and how it justifies the work it does for business units, Chen says.

"If people were looking primarily at cost, [Microsoft's free] Hyper-V would be selling a lot more," Chen says. "There are a lot of costs, but translating it [so business unit managers can understand] is complicated."

An extra virtual machine looks free because it requires no capital costs to launch, Staten says. Licensing costs, resource use, administration, storage and all the other costs still exist, but are usually not translated clearly in budget analyses to the business side, he says.

That failure to understand real costs — as much as any other single factor — can cause even a technically successful virtualization project to hang.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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