I chatted up a group of IT pros running full tilt towards virtualization. They all seemed to have left their management hats at home... How 'bout you? We'd love to get your view on VM management.

Joe Hernick, IT Director

June 29, 2009

3 Min Read

I chatted up a group of IT pros running full tilt towards virtualization. They all seemed to have left their management hats at home... How 'bout you? We'd love to get your view on VM management.A couple weeks ago I attended a tech consortium meeting for IT directors in academia. Most were from small colleges and private schools. These folks are facing the same budget tightening that for-profit shops are dealing with; reduced resources, loss of revenue and an uncertain business climate are on everyone's worry list.

One of the ways these smaller IT orgs are addressing budget concerns is via virtualization. That's why I was at the table.

I was expecting to hear about server consolidation efforts, routine P2V conversions, and lowered capital expenses. The usual suspects when environments are just starting to dabble in the virtual world.

Wrong. I was shocked at the breadth and depth of virtualization efforts. Three flavors of application virt. Two schools embracing the cloud and strongly encouraging netbook usage for students. Citrix, VMware, VirtualIron, and Virtuosso on the server side. (Sorry, Hyper-V, no takers yet. Everyone seems to want migration capabilities.)

These schools are looking at virtualization to address a number of old ills in their traditional infrastructures, including historically week HA, generally poor redundancy, performance monitoring, backup and recovery. The meeting went on: Two types of desktop virt and a number of varieties of delivered desktops under investigation; one school is rolling out a Pano zero-client test bed this summer, with big plans for next fall. These are smallish IT shops, light on staff, a touch weak on enterprise mindset, dealing with dual populations of unruly student client machines and surprisingly conservative faculty/staff members. All of them are watching pennies.

Frankly, I was caught off guard by the many flavors of virtualization being investigated by the 20-odd schools represented at the table.

Good so far, right? I asked about plans to manage this new world... and was met by silence. Aside from relying on basic vendor tools, there were no formal management toolsets or policies in the works across the board. I fear most of these folks are following the early path of their for-profit brethren... wooed by the siren call of VMing, recognizing the immediate benefits, not fully grokking the potential long-term headaches of a poorly managed virtualization farm.

My experience, and 99% of what I hear from readers and interviews with other IT pros speaks to VM management headaches and heartaches. A wide arc of management practices are in place, from smallish laissez-faire implementations to multimillion dollar third party tools riding herd on giant ESX and XenServer farms. We all hear good and bad VM integration stories with existing enterprise management systems. Let's roll up our sleeves and quantify.

We at InformationWeek would love to hear how y'all manage your VMs.

Please, please, click here to take our short 2009 VM Management Survey. Five minutes of your time with a chance to win a shiny new iPod Touch. Results will be shared. Data will be mapped against our 2008 numbers. We'll laugh and cry together. Heck, I'll even pass the final stats along to those wild and crazy academic consortium members.

(The survey will be available online through midnight 7/4.)

About the Author(s)

Joe Hernick

IT Director

Joe Hernick is in his seventh year as director of academic technology at Suffield Academy, where he teaches, sits on the Academic Committee, provides faculty training and is a general proponent of information literacy. He was formerly the director of IT and computer studies chair at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT, and spent 10 years in the insurance industry as a director and program manager at CIGNA.

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