Virtualization is a rapidly growing technology used by many organizations today. Most companies understand the purpose and value of integrating a virtual infrastructure but may not understand how to properly integrate this new technology into their traditional IT management framework and processes.
“Although virtualization technology may be complex, many management tasks related to virtualization are simplified compared to traditional systems,” says Brian Capoccia, disaster recovery practice manager at Agile360, A Division of Entisys Solutions, Inc.
Smart Business talked with Capoccia for his insight into the best practices in managing your virtual infrastructure.
Do I manage my virtual machines in the same way I manage my physical systems?
In many ways, yes. Software updates, security patches and service packs are all applied in the same manner as they would be to a physical machine. However, there are also many management tasks that relate to virtual machines (VMs) that do not exist for physical machines. Tasks such as rapid provisioning, live migrations between physical systems and snapshot capabilities are performed with VM management software. This software also provides administrators performance and resource information about the host system and the VMs that run on it.
Does virtualization increase the complexity of my IT environment?
The initial implementation will add to the level of complexity as a whole, however, many administrative tasks will be simplified. Virtualization brings new and simple ways to accomplish tasks that are traditionally more complex on physical systems. For example, implementing virtualization can offer protection against server hardware failure that is comparable to clustering. However, implementing and maintaining a clustered system is much more complex than maintaining the same system in the virtual infrastructure.
Virtualization can also simplify the recovery process for failed systems. VMs are recovered as easily as restoring deleted files. In contrast, the recovery process for physical systems may require that the system is recovered to identical hardware, which will usually include the installation of a base operating system, applications and then the restoration of critical files from full and incremental backups.
Can I monitor virtual machines with my current system management software?
Yes, most system management software packages have the capacity to manage and monitor VMs in the same way as physical systems. HP Insight Manager, Dell OpenManage and IBM Director all have this capability. Administrators that are already familiar with these tools are able to leverage their existing knowledge to also manage host machines in the same way.
In addition to these system management tools, virtualization solution providers have management products that are designed specifically for VM management.
What kinds of tools and processes can I use to prevent ‘server sprawl’?
Virtualization itself combats server sprawl by allowing for the consolidation of many physical servers. However, compared to physical servers, VMs are relatively easy to build, duplicate and deploy. This leads to a new phenomenon known as ‘virtual machine sprawl.’
The provisioning process for physical machines has built-in controls that manage machine sprawl. Cost and the procurement process are probably the biggest factors. The VMs should be viewed similarly. The key to managing VM sprawl is to manage the provisioning process just as the procurement process is managed for a physical server. A provisioning process should include the requestor of the resource, the reason for the request and an approval process. Only then should a VM be created.
Controls exist in the virtual infrastructure to prevent unauthorized personnel from creating VMs. Only administrators directly responsible for managing the virtual infrastructure should be assigned this right.
Can I back up VMs the same way I back up physical servers?
Yes, VMs can be backed up just like any other server in the environment. However, careful planning should be considered when backing up VMs. Traditional methods can cause a lot of strain on the system if multiple VMs are backed up simultaneously on the same host. This is because the backup agent is designed to utilize the processor on the server that is being backed up.
There are several methods that exist that can augment traditional backup methods. They include SAN based backups, disk-to-disk-to-tape backups and virtualization specific consolidated backup frameworks that allow for the off-loading of the CPU processing to a backup proxy.
What effect does server virtualization have on my backup window?
Certain virtualization technologies have the capacity to allow for a ‘hot backup’ of VMs. This means that the VM is briefly put on pause to allow for a backup to occur with little impact on performance. This provides the ability to back up VMs during production hours, virtually eliminating the traditional ‘backup window.’
BRIAN CAPOCCIA is disaster recovery practice manager at Agile360, A Division of Entisys Solutions, Inc.. He can be reached at (949) 278-8065 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.