The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 8

Posted by Scott Key   |   Tuesday, September 29th, 2009   |  

The last post of this series covered the changes virtualization causes in the data center, this post will cover the sales aspect of a successful virtualization program.

Typically technology folks avoid sales people, but when it comes to creating a virtualization program the technology staff must become sales people.  Senior management must be sold on the value and saves associated with virtualization and application managers and server administrators must be sold on the stability and performance of the virtual technologies.

Presentations with data related to the number of potential servers that can be virtualized, the cost of those physical servers today compared to the cost of virtual instances to replace them musy be created for senior management (CIO’s, etc.).  The presentation needs to be sales based, focusing on the potential save by migrating from physical to virtual.


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 7

Posted by Scott Key   |   Wednesday, September 16th, 2009   |  

The last post in this column covered operational readiness, and after a summer break and another VMworld down, this post will cover data center implications of virtualization.

Since most data centers are lights out facilities, the teams that manage them do not always know what the hardware they install and monitor is used for, or what OS is running on the hardware. This makes understanding the usage of hardware for virtualization very important for the data center teams. As an example, the request to a data center for the first virtualization farm or cluster, without an in-depth explanation of how the hardware is used and why, may cause some blank stares. The number of network connections needed for a host server, the needed proximity of the host servers to each other, the common subnet for the network, the number of IP addresses needed compared to the number of physical servers – all things that are much different from the typical model for physical standalone servers in the data center.


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 6

Posted by Scott Key   |   Wednesday, July 15th, 2009   |  

The last post covered the cultural impacts and change caused by virtualization. This post will cover operational readiness issues and needs related to virtualization.

Being operationally prepared for virtualization is the overall hidden challenge.

Being operationally ready for virtualization includes the topics already discussed, but this post will cover a few more detailed points.

The processes and procedures that exists to manage physical servers will not all work for virtual servers. Many of the hypervisor operating systems are Linux based, but most virtual instances running on them are Windows based.

In most larger companies, Linux is managed by a UNIX based team, while Windows servers are managed by a separate team. So how should these hypervisors be managed?


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 5

Posted by Scott Key   |   Sunday, June 28th, 2009   |  

The Cultural Impacts

The last post covered cost models and changes needed to adopt virtualization, this post will cover the cultural change aspect of the technology within a company.

As typical with technology, change is constant but always a battle as many people do not embrace it.  Virtualization has been one of the biggest changes in technology in several years.  The reason is that virtualization touches so many different technology disciplines.  This one technology causes change in server, storage, network, data centers, software management, etc.  Therefore, virtualization is a very disruptive technology, but for good reason.

The challenge is managing this change across all these groups and keeping the technology and program moving forward.  The first a request is made to a network team to have 5 to 8 physical network connections to a few x86 servers but over 100 IP addresses, or a few terabytes of storage at one time for an environment consisting of multiple physical servers that all need to see the same storage – these are request that will get similar responses to the Internet replacing newspapers – it will never happen!  But, it will happen, although the change should be as non-disruptive as possible to keep program moving forward.


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 4

Posted by Scott Key   |   Friday, June 26th, 2009   |  

Cost Models and Chargeback’s

Continuing from the last post covering data metrics, a solid cost model is needed to sell the program and saves from virtualization. The company needs to see a significant save to offset the investment and disruption from virtualization.

Most corporations have a cost model in place for technology, some purchase hardware and software centrally and charge the businesses via a rate card based model. Other models allow the businesses to purchase the hardware and software and charge centrally for shared services like network, email, etc.

Regardless of the model in place, virtualization cost for the company must show a save in order to sell the program. If the cost model in place does not show a signification save by moving from one physical server running one OS instance to one physical server running many OS instances, then there is an issue with the existing model that needs to be addressed. Fundamentally, virtualization should save money.


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 3

Posted by Scott Key   |   Wednesday, June 10th, 2009   |  

continues from The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 2, published on on June 3, 2009

Data and Metrics of the Virtual Environment

The last entry left off with preparing a deck to sell a virtualization program.  The sales aspect will be further discussed separately in future entries to serve it justice.  Continuing with the data and metrics topic, this entry will focus on reporting the status and health of the virtual environments and infrastructure.

Assuming the virtualization program is now taking off like wild fire due to the save opportunities, there are a few things to beware of to keep the program running.  One is providing reports to prove the program is saving what the initial plan stated, and hopefully even more.  The key to doing this reporting is accurate inventory data and consistent processes for capturing virtual instances.  In order to properly track the data, the following elements should be captured:

  • Virtual Infrastructure details (Hosts, Farm or Cluster info, etc.)
  • Virtual Instance details (including in which Host, Farm or Cluster the instance resides)
  • Is the Virtual Instance a net new request or a migration from physical to virtual
  • If a migration from physical, what was the name of the physical server and what happen to the physical server after the migration (reused, sold, written off and donated, etc.)

    This data is needed to accurately track the growth of the virtual environment and calculate the saves related.  Weekly and monthly metrics should be prepared and sent to sponsors, etc. to show the growth and track trends related to saves from the program.


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 2

Posted by Scott Key   |   Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009   |  

As discussed in the first post, data is vital to being able to understand the opportunities in your environment and calculate important cost savings opportunities, without this data you cannot sell the solution and get buy in from upper management, which is key to your success. Therefore, data is the first category in this series.

Data and Assessments

There is no question that virtualizing servers saves money, putting several virtual servers on one physical server vs. several physical servers will show a save in many ways. Although, without data and metrics to prove the save to those sponsoring the efforts, the work is pointless.

Data is the key element to a successful virtualization program. Without data and metrics the successes of the program cannot be presented. Without data and metrics funding cannot be obtained to start or continue the program. What servers should be virtualized and why? Without the proper data and metrics that question cannot be answered.

In order to prepare a proposal to start a virtualization program the current physical environment must be assessed. An assessment can be done internally if the proper tools are in place, or there are many third party services today for virtualization assessments. Performance metrics of the physical servers are a must, and there are four primary utilization metrics that need to be captured:


The Hidden Challenges of Virtualization – Part 1

Posted by Scott Key   |   Tuesday, May 26th, 2009   |  

This is the first entry of a multi series blog about the hidden challenges of virtualization.  The series will not go into details about the hypervisors, or the many management tools that exist today, but rather the challenges from an operational and cultural standpoint of introducing and implementing virtualization into your environment.


Virtualization technology is present at every angle in today’s market.  These products have been tested and tried and they work, getting them installed in an environment and hosting virtual instances or managing or monitoring a virtual environment is actually a very simple process.  Sometimes picking the right products for a company and architecting the proper solution can be a challenge, but the technology works and typically it is not hard to install and configure.

If installing the software was all that had to be done, this truly would be a virtual world, but as you may have seen firsthand moving from a physical world to a virtual one has many challenges.  Most of them being hidden from plain sight of the eager technologist ready to save their company from the economic downturn. This series of blog entries will consist of experiences from those that have successfully navigated the virtual waters and learned their lessons along the way.

In the coming weeks, this series will discuss the steps for building the program and selling and implementing the technology.  The topics will include but not limited to: