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2/15/2010
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Keeping The Virtualization Hangover At Bay

How do management tools fit into your company's server virtualization strategy? If you can't answer that question, don't feel too bad -- you have a lot of company.

How do management tools fit into your company's server virtualization strategy? If you can't answer that question, don't feel too bad -- you have a lot of company.This week, InformationWeek contributor Michael Healey takes a long, hard look at what he calls the "back side of the virtualization wave." It might be more appropriate to call it a virtualization hangover, because that is how some IT departments feel when they realize what they're getting themselves into: Virtualization has created its share of heroes in IT. A few years back, after a division of a Fortune 1000 financial company virtualized 800 servers over a 12-month period, the IT team was bathed in ROI glory: lower cooling costs, a smaller footprint, and cost savings on capital equipment and licensing. Life was good.

Fast forward to last year. Those 800 virtual servers had ballooned to 1,000, with no clear picture of the overall configuration, no tracking of the life cycle of each virtual machine, nor any record of how they grew so rapidly. A review of the team's procedures found a complete breakdown in protocol for provisioning computing power, blamed on a lack of management tools and poor organization. The team had to bring in consultants to help get the operation back in order. Healey cites a recent InformationWeek Analytics report that finds more than half of the companies surveyed using a hypervisor vendor's own built-in tools for virtualization management. That approach forces IT departments to deal with at least two sets of management tools -- one for the physical servers and another for the virtual servers.

When you throw multi-vendor environments, storage virtualization, and desktop virtualization into the mix, the potential for a train wreck grows exponentially.

Don't Miss: NEW! Virtualization How-To Center

Healey offers some tips for getting your IT department on top of virtualization management before it gets on top of you. He stresses that using the right tool for the job is just part of the problem; the other part involves addressing organizational issues that virtualization projects will reveal and exacerbate. He warns that while vendors such as VMware and Citrix offer solid management tools for their particular environments, these tools don't always scale or integrate very well.

He also delivers some bad news for IT organizations that want to buy a silver bullet: A robust, enterprise-level management system will start at around $140,000, while systems for SMBs still require a $30,000-$50,000 initial investment.

The first portion of Healey's discussion is available online at InformationWeek. If this topic keeps you and your colleagues up at night, however, I suggest downloading the full story at part of this week's print edition of InformationWeek, which is currently available as a free digital download (free registration required).

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