IT Survival Guide: With Virtual Machines, Management Is Key - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Hardware & Infrastructure
09:00 PM
Joe Hernick
Joe Hernick
Connect Directly

IT Survival Guide: With Virtual Machines, Management Is Key

Do a deep dive review of your current servers to identify early candidates for virtualization, make sure everyone involved agrees on goals, and update internal policies to reflect this new world order

You're running how many single-application Windows 2000 servers for accounts payable? Your server room HVAC struggles to maintain 83 degrees--in the middle of winter? If this sounds like your IT department's reality, virtualization may the answer.

Virtual machines free operating systems from underlying computer hardware, so one physical server can host multiple versions of Windows and Linux, map to limitless external data stores, and offer an endless variety of applications while being managed from a single console. There's a catch, of course: If management isn't your strong suit, VMs can spiral out of control and put data at risk.

InformationWeek Reports

Technologies such as VMware's VMotion let "guest" operating systems migrate from host to host in real time as business needs dictate, while providing relatively simple and inexpensive failover, clustering, and scalability.

The Opportunity
Transitioning to a virtualized environment reduces capital costs and power consumption and shrinks your data center footprint.
Transfer technologies like VMware's VMotion can move virtual servers seamlessly from one host to another, giving IT administrators unprecedented flexibility.
Carefully plan migration, management, and information security policies for virtualized environments.
Enterprise-grade virtualization platforms from VMware, XenSource, and others capitalize on the fact that IT departments have always sized servers for peak workloads. Because of that, data centers house many servers where average CPU utilization is measured in single digits.

With forethought, virtual servers with complementary usage loads can comfortably share the same physical platform. An enterprise-class server running multicore processors optimized for virtualization (AMD-V, Intel VT) can easily host five, 10, or more guest operating systems.

Problem is, even magic bullets can misfire. The ease and speed with which virtualized servers can be deployed on a host platform is tempting some IT pros to bypass the formal, established change-control processes most organizations have in place. Don't do it. It's too easy to deploy a noncompliant guest server on a host running mission-critical production VMs, increasing risk. When VM-specific security policies are lacking, plan/build/run disciplines are abridged to launch/run/pray.

Traditional safety nets in the form of IP-based security tools may be ineffective because VM communications within a host server never venture onto the physical network. VMs could be at risk of attack from a compromised guest.

The answer is to remember that a server running as a VM is still a server, with all the requisite maintenance and management requirements. IT shops have never had this level of flexibility and creative control in client-server environments, but we've also never had this level of exposure.

While traditional operations center management vendors are upgrading their products to support virtualized machines, new entrants such as Cirba are releasing analysis and management software targeting VMotion environments.

Still, VM management is a dynamic market at the moment. Look for Microsoft and VMware to bundle in more management tools as their platforms mature. Near term, investigate new players in this space if you're planning a large-scale VM deployment in the next year.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll