Virtualization offers businesses a supremely agile infrastructure framework that allows services and applications to be deployed quickly and efficiently for greater competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, virtualization continues to grow in popularity due to its ease of scalability and its ability to reduce the need for dedicated infrastructure.
As businesses move toward more on-demand services, many are recognizing ―and capitalizing―on the benefits of virtualized infrastructure. Built-in abstraction capabilities inherent with virtualization allow you to manage servers, storage and other computing resources in pools no matter where they are physically located. The result: lower operating costs, increased application flexibility, and better resource optimization.
Although organizations can gain quick value by upgrading a single component or area of infrastructure, more substantial benefits can be gained by implementing a more comprehensive approach across an array of applications, devices and systems. But like any technology deployment, the convenience enabled by virtualization doesn’t negate the need to effectively manage the underlying infrastructure.
While many businesses are leveraging the advantages of virtualization, some are not fully capitalizing on its potential. One challenge is the accelerated rate of technology advancements. An additional obstacle is a lack of planning and along with poor management practices.
Businesses often launch virtualization projects in a disorganized, haphazard fashion. Over time, virtual servers begin to propagate throughout the infrastructure while IT struggles to manage two distinct environments―the virtual and the physical.
Every virtualization project has its own set of advantages and limitations. While resource optimization is important, transitioning to virtualized infrastructure is about choosing what is best for the enterprise―not entirely about reducing costs. Creating a purpose-focused strategy should be a chief priority.
You can implement the optimum plan for your present needs, but your results will fall short of expectations if you don’t integrate flexibility and agility into your approach. Virtualized and cloud environments are evolving rapidly, therefore, it’s important to design and build virtual environments that can scale and adapt to meet changing priorities and evolving business needs.
At the core of an effective virtualization plan is gaining a clear understanding of the requirements and capabilities of your existing infrastructure. This requires evaluating your workloads and applications, where hardware and software components are installed, the amount of resources they require, and their role and function in supporting your business objectives.
Gaining clear insight into your current infrastructure and how it’s configured and used will provide a framework for determining the optimum approach forward. One you’ve transitioned to a virtual environment, you’ll also want to conduct a thorough inventory your virtual infrastructure, as well as a running inventory, which requires updating and recording changes in every instance. It’s difficult to effectively monitor performance and execute troubleshooting without a clear inventory of the infrastructure you currently have in place.
Technology planning should take into account the present, along with the future, so it’s important to build hybrid scenarios into your virtualized deployments. Your virtualized infrastructure should be able to scale up and down as necessary, reduce administrative costs, and eliminate vendor lock-in.
In planning your virtualized approach, it’s important to look beyond the potential cost savings and make decisions in the context of an actual business case. That means carefully considering your goals, computing needs, resources, and many other factors. It’s complicated, and often involves trade-offs with significant strategic impact.
While virtualization can help boost business performance, navigating and implementing the right management approach isn’t always easy. Virtualization adds complexity at multiple points in your IT infrastructure, which can complicate troubleshooting compared to physical environments.
Consolidating resources and applications across a virtualized environment requires the migration and movement of workloads. This is where automated software tools can play a vital role, helping to balance capacity demands, avoid bottlenecks, and optimize performance. In addition to easing the burden of your IT staff by eliminating a multitude of manual tasks, virtualization management software helps simplify a number of processes such as conducting inventory checks and analyzing virtual server correlations.
Customizable, interactive dashboards display performance metric and reveal how virtual machines are mapped to their associated storage, host, and related components, which allows you to quickly identify and resolve any underlying cause of performance issues. You can also review and track storage performance, including parameters related to hardware condition, historical operating data, and configuration updates.
The right virtualization management tool can help simplify resource administration, enhance data analyses, and optimize capacity. Capacity planning entails looking at the baseline performance and needs of your system to determine where you might experience spikes in need, and where you might need more (or fewer) virtual servers or VMs.
With effective capacity planning and testing, you can shore up your system against bottlenecks and other performance problems. When issues occur, you will be equipped to troubleshoot the problem and identify the root cause.
Each management tool is different, but most will allow you to effectively monitor virtual infrastructure, compile reports, assign resources, and automatically enforce rules. Some systems are even compatible across different software and hardware brands—allowing you to select the management tool that is best suited for your environment.
Data protection and security are chief considerations in virtualized deployments, particularly in regulated environments. Safeguarding systems and processes needs to be carefully balanced against long-term business goals and objectives.
Leveraging virtualization’s full potential requires a careful, balanced approach, taking into consideration cost savings advantages, performance requirements, and potential risk factors. Although virtual machines can offer users a practical, more convenient experience, it’s critical to carefully control user access to applications and data.
The more access points and connections there are to a single device, the greater the potential for data to be compromised, lost or stolen. The challenge is creating policies that provide an optimum balance between flexibility and security. Ultimately you want to provide users with a certain level of infrastructure control while making sure virtualized benefits do not compromise defined security controls.
Although virtualization can help improve and strengthen data protection efforts, an IT security disaster can hit at any time. That’s why it’s critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place to help make sure your business can continue to operate, meet compliance mandates, and minimize business disruption and downtime.
One advantage of virtualization is its ability to help streamline data backup and recovery. For optimum results, consider working with an expert consultant who can help you develop a disaster recovery and business continuity strategy that protects assets and defends against ongoing threats. The consultant will assess your security needs and determine an optimum balance of storing your most sensitive data on more secure infrastructure, providing an extra layer of protection.
Building a Solid Virtualization Framework
Virtualization offers substantial business advantages. By abstracting and encapsulating applications from physical hardware, you create virtual machines that are simpler to manage, easier to move and scale, and can be quickly implemented on physical hardware. Nevertheless, with virtualized technology, you still have a new set of infrastructure management challenges, including hardware configuration and server proliferation.
Making the right decisions about how to best leverage virtualized infrastructure can be confusing. It often involves tradeoffs with significant strategic impact. Your best bet: Don’t go it alone. Work with an experienced virtualization expert whose core focus is on improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. By outsourcing ongoing support tasks to a trusted partner, you can focus on more strategic activities with greater peace of mind knowing that your virtualized systems and processes are running smoothly and efficiently.