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Asset inventory sheds light on lack of virtual machine management

When one of Mark Bowker’s clients went to do an IT asset inventory, they couldn’t count how many virtual machines they had … because they couldn’t see them.

Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Mass., shared this story as we were talking about IT shops’ interest in virtual machine management.

Visibility — not just for the location of VMs, but also into the impact virtual machines have on the resources they use and how they affect the rest of the physical infrastructure: servers, storage, networking and applications — isn’t happening yet in many shops.

This particular audit was asked for by the client’s security group, which was none too pleased with not being able to find some virtual machines and what data resided on them.

It is not an uncommon problem, partly because of how easily virtual machines can be deployed. A lack of virtual machine management best practices also stems from the fact that, aside from pretty large organizations, server virtualization is still a small percentage of an overall IT infrastructure.

Of 460 companies surveyed with 2,000 or more employees, the majority had less than 250 virtual machines in production, according to a survey ESG conducted in August. Of this 56%, 12% had less than 25 VMs deployed in production, 13% had 25 to 49 VMs deployed, 13% had 50 to 100 and 18% had 101 to 250.

And despite problems that can arise from a lack of VM visibility, IT shops are satisfied enough with the basic virtual machine management tools that come with server virtualization technology like VMware’s vCenter and Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Bowker said.

“IT administrators are extremely enthusiastic about where they’ve come from (in terms of the management tools they have traditionally used to do their particular job), and are very satisfied with the advances they are getting by still being able to use that single pane of glass,” he said.

Meaning the basic virtualization tools that come with server virtualization technology integrate with the tools that the admins have already become accustomed to.

Advanced tools are beginning to bake. Ones that allow you to keep a close watch on VM location and what’s in them, how to provision them, and the resources the VM and the host need before an application is put on the host. Some even figure out all the complex metrics for right sizing resources to transform a physical environment into a virtual one.

But, for now, many IT shops do not need those types of advanced features, or the cost of buying specialized virtual machine management tools, until perhaps security asks for an audit and finds that a few VMs have gone missing.