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Keeping Virtualization Under Control

Effectively managing virtualization environments is key to the success of implementing this technology. Server virtualization does not come without its challenges. According to Gartner, virtual machine (VM) “sprawl” is the number one concern when it comes to managing VM environments.

If the heady rush of virtualization is starting to give way to the headache of managing all that vapor, take heart: New breeds of management systems are making it easier to launch, optimize and retire virtual machines.

The chief culprit in the battle to maintain control over virtual environments is virtual sprawl. Now that the top virtualization vendors have perfected the art of provisioning and launching virtual environments, the need is growing for automated processes to retire those environments when they are no longer needed. Without effective management, the steady growth of virtual systems, which demand the resources of real hardware nonetheless, can become light years more serious than the physical sprawl that virtualization was supposed to combat in the first place.

I found a good run-down on issues surrounding virtual sprawl by Embotics' David Lynch here. He offers a number of key insights into how to tell when virtual sprawl is getting out of hand (it's not just the number of VMs being created), how it can negatively affect enterprise functionality, and the key elements in managing virtual lifecycles.

Many of the top vendors are already building out their virtualization management capabilities. Last month, we saw Microsoft unveil its Systems Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extension, which not only keeps track of both virtual and physical systems, but extends this capability across multiple, non-Windows platforms like HP-UX, RHEL and Solaris.

This week sees the release of VMware's IT Service Delivery Bundle, aimed at full automation of VM lifecycles for use in IT service applications. The system provides for self-provisioning of VMs, as well as more extensive control over virtual environments by preventing sprawl through lifecycle management. The goal is to provide a more effective means to deploy IT services by minimizing risk to the enterprise and automating the development, testing and deployment of virtual environments.

Business software firm SAS is offering its own take on management of the VMware environment with the new IT Intelligence for VMware Infrastructure system. The idea was to bring business intelligence and analytics technology into VMware's VirtualCenter management system to not only automate many of the management tasks at play, but to predict the future needs of the environment and ensure resources are available to meet them.

In a similar vein, Tideware Systems is bringing its expertise in application dependency mapping (ADM) to virtual management in its Foundation 7.1 system. Traditional ADM systems offer a window into what types of applications are running at a given time, as well as how they are affecting server environments, storage and even other applications. Tideway tweaked its system to offer the same thing for virtual machines in VMware, Sun and now IBM AIX environments.

Effective management is the key to a smooth-running operation. Once you trade the physical world for a virtual one, the art of management becomes a greater challenge because the symptoms of an overloaded environment often don't present themselves until the situation reaches critical mass. If Job 1 was to get virtualization in placeHealth Fitness Articles, Job 2 should be to develop the means to control it.

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Arthur has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.  Check out his blog, Data Center Central, at IT Business Edge, for the latest in virtualization, consolidation, and business continuity strategies

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