The Fast Track To Virtualisation Management

Virtualisation has the potential to deliver exceptional benefits in agility, cost, quality, and risk. Left unmanaged, however, virtualisation deployments can stall, or even fail.

Virtualisation is the right technology, in the right place, at the right time. As the global economy continues to be racked by recession, IT managers are being forced to make difficult decisions about where to make their investments. Increasingly, it is only those technologies which deliver a fast, validated return on investment that are getting the green light. This explains why virtualisation demand is growing so quickly.

The creation of a virtual ― rather than physical ― version of an operating system, a server, a storage device, or network resources has the potential to deliver real benefits of reduced cost, increased reliability, and increased utilisation. Better still, web access to near instantaneous cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions has dramatically lowered the effort and cost of using virtualised solutions for service delivery.

Virtualisation is also delivering on early promises to reduce, if not eliminate, long waits resulting from back-upped IT service requests. No wonder virtualisation is rising to the top of the IT management ‘wish list’.

This isn’t hype either. A recent survey examined the views of some public sector organisations in Turkey towards virtualisation and cloud computing. It found that 84% of Turkish respondents are already using server virtualisation or plan to do so. Moreover, 55% view cloud computing as a long-term shift in methodology, not as a short-term fad.

Read the virtualisation terms and conditions

However, before you rush to contact your nearest VMware or other virtualisation technology vendor, check the small print ― the terms and conditions of virtualisation. Problems with visibility, control, and staffing can cause deployments to stall, or even fail. Without robust, insightful management tools, virtualisation will remain limited to basic deployments.

Why is this? First, the abstraction of IT resources inherent in virtualisation means that administrators cannot easily see the details of virtual machine (VM) implementations. The ease of VM deployment and features like live migration certainly help with workload agility, but they also steer around traditional safeguards like approval or procurement steps that previously ensured security, compliance, and cost control. Traditional management tools cannot deal with this type or rate of change, which means that administrators lose control of their VM deployment, configuration, migration, and performance.

Second, virtualisation creates the need for new, complex, and expensive skills that cross traditional silos. As a result, there is a resource drain, as architects and other senior staff are over-allocated to routine and mundane tasks like service provisioning, while junior staff are underutilised. To keep up, organisations often resort to outside consultants and contractors, further draining budgets, constraining virtualisation rollouts, and stalling other projects.

Third, the issue of ‘VM sprawl’ is written large in almost every organisation with a virtualisation strategy. Without visibility and control, and without skilled resources to manage it, VM deployments often proceed unmanaged.

As a result, IT faces an uncontrolled proliferation of virtual machines—the dreaded VM sprawl. Poor capacity allocation damages performance, over-subscription breaches license compliance, unplanned overruns blow out budgets, and under-resourcing means other critical projects go untended. Virtualisation becomes a burden that threatens to consume IT resources, budgets, and reputations.

These problems often culminate in ‘VM stall’, where virtualisation deployment grinds to a halt while IT—unable to scale the virtualisation deployment—figures out how to deal with these challenges. Without robust management, virtualisation inevitably remains limited to basic deployments and low-risk applications. Meanwhile, application owners struggle to deliver immediate value, while business leaders continue to demand even more value, without supporting additional IT funding.

Cost-effective, accessible and powerful management solutions

IT organisations need new and better ways to harness the potential of virtualisation. The answer here is cost-effective virtualisation management tools. But this too can be a minefield. The majority of virtualisation management solutions fail in a variety of ways. Many are evolved from solutions designed for physical infrastructure management.

Many are point products that address only parts of the problem, which cannot work together to provide an integrated solution. Another common failing is a focus on simply managing the technology and ignoring the management issues surrounding business service delivery. The result has been generally disappointing levels of management success.

All of which means organisations are calling out for enterprise-focused, comprehensive solutions able to manage the full life cycle of virtualised and physical infrastructures from creation to retirement. They demand sophisticated, feature-rich solution suites delivering end-to-end management of combined physical and virtualised infrastructure. Companies have responded to this escalating demand for more cost-effective, accessible and powerful management solutions exclusively targeted for virtual systems.

Virtualisation management solutions enable firms to better provision, control, assure, secure, and optimise stand-alone virtual or hybrid physical and virtual environments. For example, the technology portfolio provides automated, self-service VM lifecycle management, including provisioning, resource pool management, VM tracking, cost accounting, and scheduled de-provisioning. Another integrated solution delivers deep visibility, rapid fault isolation, and root-cause analysis for virtualised environments.

With virtualisation management, virtualisation deployment becomes easier to manage and easier to expand, allowing organisations to reap the benefits of cost reduction, agility, flexibility, and business alignment. Organisations gain the visibility and confidence to virtualizes even mission-critical ‘tier 1’ applications; they are able to use staff more effectively, and more efficiently; can better ensure the integrity and availability of data, systems, and applications; and can increase the value of virtualisation investments while leveraging an existing infrastructure.

Colin Bannister is responsible for managing the technical presales teams and defining, and the promotion, of CA Technologies' Enterprise IT Management strategy and is regularly sought to provide analysis on industry trends. He is also responsible for assisting customers to maximise their investment in CA Technologies and exploit emerging technologies and techniques to improve IT performance and efficiency. With more than 25 years IT industry experience, Colin has held a number of senior management positions within the retail, retail banking and computer services industries.