by Laurianne McLaughlin

Five Tips for Going From 0 Virtual Machines to 1000

Sep 18, 20083 mins

Most IT organizations start getting questions around 100 to 150 virtual machines. Here's advice for those ready to cross the tipping point and go from saving money on servers to creating a cloud-like infrastructure inside the business.

The number of virtual machines you have in your organization doesn’t equal maturity, says Andrea Eubanks, senior director, enterprise and technical marketing for VMware. The goal is not necessarily 1000 virtual machines, it’s a mature stable growth path for virtualization in your company, she says. Still, making the leap from the initial stages of virtualization to a more standardized virtual environment takes scale and planning.

“A lot of organizations get to 30 percent virtualized and say we’re good, we’ve saved a lot of money,” Eubanks says. “It’s not enough.”

If you’re aiming for a very flexible virtualized infrastructure, you need to be at least 50 percent virtualized, she says.

In a presentation with VMworld attendees, Eubanks shared five key success factors to IT transformations involving virtualization, which VMware has noted among customer implementations:

  1. Get top-down sponsorship.
  2. Treat virtualization as an architectural decision throughout the organization.
  3. Design for the big picture, deploy incrementally.
  4. Form a core virtualization team (center of excellence.)
  5. Ensure high quality design through collaboration and buy in of all IT stakeholders, such as server, network, storage and security teams.

Your team is especially important to business success, Eubanks says: make no mistake, you want to take your windows, linux, networking and other experts and put virtualization in their title, and band them together as a core virtualization team, she says.

Qualcomm is one customer that VMware is touting here at VMworld as a longtime, successful user of virtual technology to save costs and speed provisioning, among other goals. Eubanks cites that from March of 2003 to June of 2007, Qualcomm to went well over 1000 virtual machines, and has now begun retiring VMs to save money.

In an interesting detail, she noted that Qualcomm has moved from housing 30 VMs per physical server to housing 12 VMs per server, and found that the cost per VM went down as they used smaller physical server hosts. Qualcomm shifted from big multi-processor servers to 8-way blade servers, and realized a 50 percent cost savings, she says.

Most IT departments are still grappling with the perfect number of VMs on any given machine. Qualcomm’s strategy is also interesting given AMD and Intel’s recent attempts to woo IT departments with multi-core server processors that have special hooks for virtualization, such as in AMD’s case, instruction sets that do some work that the hypervisor used to have to do itself.

Another issue that IT departments are wrestling with is the ideal number of virtual servers for any give administrator. While the large analyst firms generally advise shooting for 30 VMs per IT staffer, VMware sees a range of anywhere from 100 to 1200 per staffer, with 1200 being very vanilla VMs, Eubanks says.