Getting the most out of your virtualized environment requires a combination of careful planning, active monitoring and continuous optimization.
There is a lot that goes into virtualization beyond the initial deployment, and often there’s a misconception that it’s a set-it-and-forget-it type of technology. But that’s simply not so; virtualization requires ongoing oversight and maintenance.
Here are five trouble points that small and medium-sized businesses encounter and how to best address them.
1. Right-Size Your Virtual Infrastructure.
Businesses often mistakenly use a capacity planning approach for virtual machines (VMs) that is similar to that used for physical servers. This means allotting resources based on what a server is capable of and not what it actually does, based on peak utilization.
The result? Scenarios where VMs are configured with too many or too few resources. Often times it’s the former, with many CPU, RAM and/or storage resources left sitting idle.
By analyzing utilization trends and comparing them to server and application requirements, an IT team can better leverage existing resources to provide higher density for additional VMs while performance levels remain unaffected.
2. Plan Your Daily Capacity Management.
While a virtual infrastructure can reduce the overhead associated with managing physical servers, it works best dynamically. This means the IT team needs to proactively monitor capacity so that the environment better adapts to changes in business demands.
This optimization process needs to be continuous to make the best use of resources and to allocate them as needed to deliver a consistent, scalable virtual infrastructure that can meet workload demands as the business grows. Make sure that the you understand the reporting and alert capabilities of your virtual infrastructure.
The goal is to mitigate any shortfalls stemming from resource overcommitment before they occur. You want to avoid a scenario that could quickly lead to a destabilized experience for users or negatively impact services.
Additionally, active monitoring lets the IT team ensure that resources allocated to decommissioned VMs are made available to the resource pool for immediate provisioning to other hosted VMs and services.
3. Prepare IT Staff with Training and Support Tools.
Without proper training and tools, an IT team will be hard-pressed to resolve issues in a timely manner. While there’s less to manage in a virtualized environment, the staff still must be trained so that it can run optimally.
Knowledge of best practices and visibility into the infrastructure will go a long way toward mitigating issues before they affect end-user experiences or lead to service disruptions.
Many virtualization manufacturers include cost-effective apps, training and services that allow for in-depth management of VMs in a one-to-many ratio. These tools will give you an in-depth view of your entire infrastructure through unified management application. That way you can make better decisions affecting virtualized services and receive alerts about performance problems (including emerging concerns) that will let you shorten response times when addressing hotspots.
4. Use Containers for Application Workloads.
Containers are a newer method of running distributed applications, without the need to launch a unique VM for each app. Each software container includes a complete file system, along with all files and dependencies needed to provide an instance of an application as a web-based service.
Implementing containerization cuts down on your footprint by leveraging a single VM to handle the server virtualization while multiple containers host multiple apps.
It’s especially useful for legacy apps, which may have specific requirements or support limited operating systems, because containerization allows for OS-agnostic use of apps from any web-enabled device’s browser.
5. Optimize Your Consolidation Ratios.
The ratio at which a physical server is migrated to a virtualized host is the consolidation ratio. Finding the perfect ratio is subjective as it depends on the needs of the organization. But one thing holds true across the board: You need to know the resources each VM instance utilizes.
Armed with this information, you can configure your hypervisors to optimize the various VMs on the host server, which could lead to both increased density and a higher consolidation ratio — as these resources marry the technical requirements of a server to the changing requirements of the business.
Managing virtualized environments — even with lean staff — allows the IT department to work smarter by leveraging the tools, knowledge and existing resources at its disposal, thus continuing to grow the infrastructure efficiently without sacrificing stability or performance.