Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rethinking virtualization: Why enterprises need a sustainable virtualization strategy over hodge-podge approaches

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Enterprises today need a better way to prevent server sprawl and complexity that can impact the cost of virtualization projects. Three important considerations are instrumental for effective enterprise virtualization adoption, and they often amount to a rethinking of virtualization.

For example, one important question is, How do enterprises manage and control how network interconnections are impacted by widespread virtualization? Second, how can configuration management databases (CMDBs) help in deploying virtualized servers? And third, how can outsourcing help organizations get the most bang for their virtualization buck?

Rethinking virtualization becomes necessary to attain a sustainable enterprise virtualization strategy because virtual machines (VMs) present unique challenges.

To get to the bottom of the larger, pro-active means of virtualization planning, I recently interviewed three executives from HP: Michael Kendall, worldwide Virtual Connect marketing lead; Shay Mowlem, strategic marketing lead for HP Software and Solutions, Ryan Reed, a product manager for EDS Server Management Services.

Here are some excerpts:
Mowlem: Certainly, many companies today have recognized that consolidating their infrastructure through virtualization can reduce power consumption and space utilization, and can really maximize the value of the infrastructure that they’ve already purchased.

Just about everybody has jumped on the virtualization bandwagon, and many companies have seen tremendous gains in their development in lab environments, in managing what I would consider to be non-mission-critical production systems. But, as companies have tried to apply virtualization to their Tier 2 and Tier 1 mission-critical systems, they're discovering a whole new set of issues that, without effective management, really run counter to the cost benefits.

... For IT to realize the large-scale cost benefits of virtualization in their production environments they need to prove to the business that the service performance and the quality are not going to be lost. ... The ideal approach should include a central vantage point, from which to detect, isolate, and prevent service problems across all infrastructure elements, heterogeneous servers, spanning physical and virtual network storage, and all the subcomponents of a service.

We provide tools today that offer native discovery and dependency mapping of all infrastructure, physical and virtual, and then store that information in our central universal configuration management database (UCMDB), where we then track the make-up of a business service, all of the infrastructure that supports that service, the interdependencies that exists between the infrastructure elements, and then manage that and monitor that on an ongoing basis. ... Essentially a configuration database attracts all of the core interdependencies of infrastructure and their configuration settings over time

Kendall: When you consolidate a lot of different application instances that are normally on multiple servers, and each one of those servers has certain number of I/O for data and storage and you put them all on one server, that does consolidate the number of servers we have.

[It also] has the tendency to expand the number of network interface controllers (NICs) that you need, the number of connections you need, the number of cables you need, and the number of upstream switch ports that you need. ... Just because you can either set up a new virtual machine or want to migrate virtual machines in a matter of minutes, it isn’t as easy in the connection space. Either you have to add additional capacity for networks and for storage, add additional host bus adapters (HBAs), or add additional NICs.

We did some basic rethinking around how to remove some of these interconnect bottlenecks. HP Virtual Connect actually can virtualize the physical connections between the server, the data network, and the storage network. Virtualizing these connections allows IT managers to set up, move, replace, or upgrade blade servers and the workloads that are on them, without having to involve the network or storage folks or being able to impact the network or storage topologies.

Reed: Business services today demand higher levels of uptime and availability. Those data centers, if they were to fail due to a power outage or some other source of failure, are no longer able to provide the uptime requirements for those types of business services. So, it’s one of the first questions that a virtual infrastructure program raises to the program manager.

Does the company or the organization have the skill set necessary in-house to do large-scale virtualization in data center modernization projects? Often times, they don’t, and if they don’t, then what is their action? What is their remedy? How are they going to resolve that skill gap?

... [And there's] a hybrid model, which would be one where virtual infrastructures and non-virtual infrastructures can be managed from either client or organization-owned data center -- or the services provider data center. There are various models to consider. A lot of the questions that lead into how to plan for this type of virtual infrastructure also lead into a conversation about how an outsourcer can be the most value-add.

Outsourcers nowadays are very skilled at providing infrastructure services to virtual server environments. That would include things like profiling, analysis planning, mapping of targets to source servers, and creating a business value for understanding how it’s going to impact the business in terms of ROI and total cost of ownership.

Choose the right partner, and they can grow with you. As your business grows and as you expand your market presence, choosing the services provider that has the capability and capacity to deliver in the areas that you want to grow makes the most sense.

The traditional outsourcing model is one where enterprises realize that the data center itself is not a strategic asset to the business anymore. So they move the infrastructure to an outsourcer data center where the services provider, the outsourcing company, can provide the best services with virtual infrastructures during the design and plan phase. ... We’ve been doing this for 45 years, and it’s really the critical piece of what we do.
Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Read a full transcript of the discussion. Download a pdf of this transcript.

Attend a virtual web event from HP on July 28- July 30, "Technology You Need for Today's Economy." Register for the free event.