Policies, tools and best practices guide for virtualization management

A guide to developing a virtualization management strategy with tips on policies to set, tools to select and best practices for optimizing your virtual environment.

A virtualization management strategy should coincide with your deployment of virtual machines (VMs), otherwise

you may end up with a Wild West scenario -- missing VMs, insufficient resources and ad hoc provisioning -- that's difficult to rein in once the virtual environment is in place.

Worst-case scenario, you find yourself asking the C-level suite for more money to buy virtualization management tools. "If you go to the CFO six months after requesting capital for a multimillion-dollar virtualization project and say, 'I don't know what capacity I have, we're running out of space on clusters and I don't know how to handle it. I need more capital to purchase these tools,' that puts you in a precarious position," said Chris Wolf, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

Even if you're just starting off with a few virtual machines, key policies are a must-have, including naming conventions for associated resources such as storage, explained Chris Pray, senior engineer of global information systems at Vertex Pharmaceutical Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

In this guide, learn how to start developing a virtualization management strategy, including necessary policies and procedures, tools that cover capacity planning and right-sizing resources, and best practices for managing VM updates, patches and licensing.

Table of contents

  Developing a virtualization management strategy
  Table of Contents

The benefits gained through virtualization can be lost without an effective virtualization management strategy.

Enterprises gain agility, lean operations, disaster recovery and business continuity, as well as a virtualization management quagmire of policies, best practices documentation and tool sets that are a cycle behind the speed at which virtual environments are created.

Learn more about how two IT executives began building a management strategy for their fast-growing virtual environments in"Virtualization without virtualization management cancels out benefits." Also:

  Virtualization management tools
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Tool selection is an important piece to developing a successful virtualization management strategy. While many server and desktop virtualization technologies come with their own sets of management capabilities, third-party tools, including free ones, are readily available.

Learn more about midmarket IT shops' choice of management tools, from virtualization software vendors like VMware Inc. and Microsoft, to third-party tool vendors, in "Virtual machine performance tools equal better ROI." Also:

  • Users prefer third-party management tools over VMware management
    Forget the hypervisor wars. The new competitive front for VMware is in virtualization management tools, where the virtualization provider faces competition from third-party vendors as well as from Microsoft and Citrix Systems. For now, many users prefer management tools from smaller, more focused third-party vendors that solve immediate problems.
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 vs. vCenter
    VMware expert Mike Laverick chronicles his experience with Microsoft Hyper-V R2. He took a Microsoft virtualization course to broaden his horizons, and in this part, he reviews Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 and compares it with VMware vCenter.
  • Free management tools for VMware SMB environments
    Once you consider buying VMware management tools for a small or medium-sized business (SMB) VMware environment, it can get expensive quickly -- often too costly for a limited budget. But given the many free tools available to manage an SMB environment, there's no need to drop big bucks on expensive monitoring, reporting and automation software. Free tools can probably handle many critical VMware management tasks.
  Optimizing the virtual environment
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This virtualization optimization and implementation guide covers important topics for IT professionals and virtualization administrators, such as virtualization hypervisors, security strategies, storage infrastructures and more. These tips and strategies from the e-book Introduction to Virtualization can be applied to any data center, no matter the size, virtualization deployment stage or level of IT staff expertise.

Learn more in "Virtualization implementation and optimization guide." Also:

  • VMware management and performance monitoring guide
    VMware management and performance monitoring tools are essential for a VMware infrastructure. If you want optimal VMware performance, it's important to familiarize yourself with these key VMware monitoring tools and trends.
  • How to get your automation process right
    There is a saying in IT: "If you do it more than once, automate it."Automation is manna from heaven, as it saves time and prevents errors -- well, it prevents errors if the automation process is correct, but that is for later. More importantly, it provides standardization.
  Virtualization management best practices
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When I ask my fellow CIOs to describe their most interesting and important initiatives, one topic consistently heads the list: Virtualization. It seems nearly all of us have implemented, are implementing, or are exploring virtualization. Our company is about 18 months into our virtualization project. We have virtualized servers and storage, and we're now toying with desktops. In the interest of finding out what others have learned from their virtualization projects and research, I sent a virtualization poll out to my "network of nerds." Based on their responses, I have learned the following:

What to virtualize. There seems to be a general sense that we should start by virtualizing our older, less transaction-intensive applications and associated servers. Some of us have reduced our physical server counts by 50% to 60%. But many of us have not yet taken the plunge of virtualizing our heavy-duty applications like enterprise resource planning and Microsoft Exchange. Nor have we felt comfortable virtualizing our production database servers. This reluctance to put our IT bread and butter in a virtual environment is not just our being gutless. Rather, we are concerned about creating the potential for a single point of failure for our most critical applications.

Learn more in "Virtualization: A guide to success for CIOs." Also:

  • Policies and people are keys to managing a virtualization strategy
    If it's human nature to want to keep up with the Joneses, no one can blame IT managers for rushing to a virtualization strategy that touches just about everything: applications,desktops and servers. "Everyone is so concerned about saying, 'I'm 50% virtualized' or 70% virtualized, or 'I'm in the cloud,'" said Robert Thomas, senior IT architect at Christus Health, a 42-hospital organization headquartered in Irving, Texas, that (by the way) operates in a 90% virtualized environment. What he has learned since the start of Christus Health's virtualization journey in 2006 is that "it's important to take a step back and make sure the planning phase is really detailed." In other words, don't rush, but take the time to develop a virtualization strategy.
  • Up-front capacity planning makes for better virtualization
    Kronos Inc. was suffering from a serious case of server sprawl. Some 330 boxes had pretty much used up the space, power and cooling resources at the workforce management software company's Chelmsford, Mass., data center. The problem became acute around July 2006, when the company acquired another firm -- and 80 more servers.
  • Five ways to negotiate software virtualization licensing terms
    The good news is that many software vendors are embracing licensing terms that favor running their software in a virtual environment.
  More resources
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This was first published in January 2011

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