Virtual Insanity: How To Remain Lean And Green

Virtualisation

With the likes of cloud computing and virtualisation starting to become staples for today’s business, IT environments are continuing to grow in complexity. Furthermore, there is growing pressure on many organisations to reduce the environmental impact of their IT systems.

In response to these developments, organisations need to change the way they manage and therefore monitor their IT infrastructure. For example, with the advent of virtualisation, organisations now have a fundamentally different infrastructure platform from which they are running business systems. This in turn requires a different monitoring approach.

If organisations can’t adapt their physical world approaches to monitoring, they could find that they aren’t made aware of systems problems until users start complaining about downtime.

When it comes to cloud they need to consider how they are going to monitor both the performance and use of cloud services. Finally, with it being unlikely that organisations will move all services to the cloud they need to find ways to monitor environmental factors such as the temperature of data centres and the CO2 emissions of IT.

This data will not only allow them to find ways to reduce energy costs, but also report back up the organisation when it comes to the environmental targets that have been set.

At the same time as being presented with an increasingly complex environment to monitor, IT departments are under pressure to dramatically reduce the cost of day to day operations. The result is a conundrum that requires new ways of thinking to solve.

Taking The Pain Out Of Virtualisation

Virtualisation has been utilised by many organisations looking to improve operational efficiency. Thus, with physical and virtual machines now present in many businesses, monitoring and managing both effectively is vital.

When implementing and monitoring virtualisation, businesses face a number of challenges – all of which add to the complexity of IT monitoring. Virtualisation allows you to improve server utilisation. Yet, when you increase the utilisation of a previously under-used server, it can be difficult to know how that server will manage the increased load.

Therefore, monitoring the performance of the VM host and all the virtual machines running on it is imperative otherwise organisations could find they suffer from performance slow downs or worse still, downtime. The problem is virtualisation doesn’t behave like, or conform to the same rules as physical hardware and therefore often traditional approaches to monitoring both infrastructure and applications don’t meet the grade.

You often find that the VM itself can be monitored, but there is no insight into what’s going on within it or into the applications it’s hosting.

A further challenge for a lot of organisations is staying on top of the growing sprawl of virtualisation, due to the ease of creating virtual machines. To date, this is something that many have struggled with using older proprietary IT monitoring and management tools.

To combat these potential issues, organisations need to update their approaches to IT monitoring. They need to use tools that can provide insight into virtualisation and that enables them to understand how every application on every virtual machine is running, what problems could occur and how they can be remedied.

Without this investment in IT monitoring, virtualisation will not bring the ROI expected and the increased complexity could in fact result in ongoing performance issues.

Up In The Air – The Cloud Effect

The acceptance of cloud computing has increased over the past few years. Now, the terms public, private and hybrid are understood by the majority of organisations, with data centre association Afcom citing that more than 70 per cent of UK businesses are already implementing cloud, or seriously considering it.

Adopting a cloud model allows businesses to move some applications and services off-premise, resulting in reduced costs, with less IT equipment required on-premise. However, cloud does potentially present a number of challenges when it comes to monitoring the overall performance of an organisation’s IT infrastructure.

With this in mind, organisations should start thinking about how they are going to monitor and assess cloud performance in the future, in order to guarantee IT performance. The difficulty at the moment is that there are not many standards around cloud when it comes to moving applications between public and private clouds, and consequently monitoring them.

Therefore, before choosing a monitoring tool, organisations need to ensure that the solution has the flexibility to adapt to any future changes once standards do eventually emerge.

Another challenge organisations should be looking out for as they begin to use cloud-based services, is that they could experience cloud sprawl. Although one of the benefits of the cloud model is that users can buy services on a pay-as-you-go basis, organisations will need to make sure they are controlling cloud deployments, as it can be very easy to continue paying for cloud services long after they have finished using them.

This is for the simple reason that people often forget to tell the cloud provider that they have finished using the service and therefore keep getting billed. Ultimately, businesses will need to have a consolidated view of all cloud services meaning they will then be able to monitor how much these are being used. This way, they can make sure they only pay for what they are actually using rather than paying for what they have deployed.

Going Green Without Feeling Blue – Green IT Made Simple

In addition to adopting new technologies or IT models to reduce costs, organisations are also under pressure to become greener. This pressure comes not just from the board as they look to achieve cost savings, but also through growing public and legislative pressure on them to reduce carbon emissions.

The UK Government has set a target of cutting CO2 emissions by 34% of 1990 levels by 2020. Businesses play a key part in this and the pressure is on to adhere to the new rules and regulations that aim to ensure we hit those targets.

The main challenge for many organisations however, is that they don’t know how much power is being consumed by their IT, especially as data centres are now often located away from an organisation’s main site. Organisations must be able to construct a better picture of energy usage in their data centres – building environmental factors into monitoring to identify areas where further energy savings can be made.

For example, organisations need to be able to tell when and where they can power down servers that are not in use. They also need to monitor data centre temperature very carefully – ensuring cooling systems are working efficiently and keeping their servers at optimum temperature.

Furthermore, IT monitoring can also help organisations build a picture to help them decide which old systems can be decommissioned if they are not performing sufficiently. Being green does not need to be difficult. The right tools will indicate the right processes to improve your environmental credentials without the need for more investment or even more IT complexity.

As the IT landscape continues to change, it is becoming increasingly clear that the monitoring tools and techniques that worked in the past simply don’t suit the modern environment. More flexibility and agility is needed in IT monitoring, while reducing the overall cost. Overall, IT monitoring can help organisations improve their business and environmental performance. The challenge is now to ensure they have the right tools and techniques in place to do this.

James Peel is product manager at Opsview. He has over 12 years' experience in IT services and infrastructure management, with a focus on building data centres and developing automated monitoring and management systems.