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Taming the Virtualization Beast


Taming the Virtualization Beast


A key initiative in the IT industry today is virtualization. Virtualization holds a lot of promise, - cost savings, server consolidation, and more efficient operations that will lead to higher quality of service. However, the benefits of virtualization are actually being undermined by change and configuration management issues like drift, integrity, availability, performance and sprawl.

blog_virtualizationbeast1Virtualization is taking the IT world by storm, and is spreading quickly within organizations. Yet, many organizations still aren't getting the cost and resource savings promoted by the champions of virtualization. Most organizations even struggle with achieving the same level of control in their virtual infrastructure as their physical infrastructure. One big issue is that traditional configuration change control processes don't have visibiliyt into the virtual environment with the encapsulation of the guest systems in the black box of virtual machine. Given this, most companies have a difficult time (or don't do a good job) of addressing the management, security, performance, stability and compliance issues around the virtualization platform.

Virtualization Benefits Are Being Undermined

blog_virtualizationbeast2Recently an onsite survey of 120 network engineers, IT managers, and executives, was conducted at Interop. The survey found that 55% of respondents had more problems than benefits with virtualization.

"Virtual machine sprawl is a rising datacenter cost" - IDC

VM sprawl is a well-publicized phenomenon actually arising from some of the benefits of virtualization. Consider that virtualization makes it easy to spin up new virtual machines, VMs can move between hosts, there is no physical network connection or box, yet it can become difficult to locate and manage them as they proliferate. VM sprawl can lead to many non-standard builds that are unaccounted for creating both availability, performance, and stability issues as well as configuration management, security and licensing challenges.

"The benefits of virtualization are eroded when virtual machines go unchecked" - eWeek

Alongside the benefits, virtualization introduces major management hazards to IT operations. The biggest problem is the very high risk of sprawl or unchecked proliferation of virtual servers.

Creating new virtual servers haphazardly can easily lead to out-of-control server sprawl. Stacking too many applications on one host can leave them competing for resources. And managing your virtual resources among your physical machines can get complicated, especially for IT staff traditionally accustomed to managing only one application per physical server.

With applications abstracted from the physical server hosting the virtual machine (VM), IT organizations must be able determine the root cause when an application stops responding. However, many do not have the visibility necessary to discover what or how their applications changed on the VMs. They can measure and report symptoms but cannot diagnose the cause.

"We do not have visibility as it stands – we're blind." - Gartner

The ease of VM deployment and features like live migration drive dynamic workload agility, but also avoid traditional safeguards like approval or procurement steps that previously ensured security, compliance, availibility, performance and cost control. Traditional management tools cannot deal with this type or rate of change, so administrators lose control of VM deployment, configuration, compliance, migration, and performance. Effectively leaving the VM activity invisible to IT operations.

"A top-down, application-centric approach is needed" - Forrester

Business requirements revolve around the applications, not the infrastructure. To ensure transactional business applications are functioning properly in a mixed virtual/physical server environment, IT managers must take an application-centric approach to management, optimization, availability and performance. Application dependencies must be mapped and configuration changes discovered across servers and operating systems throughout the enterprise. With an application-centric approach and the proper tools to visualize changes down to the granular level, application owners and IT support teams can keep complex applications performing well, ensuring availibility and stability while avoiding costly downtime. 

Virtualizing IT Environments – Real Configuration Challenges blog_virtualizationbeast3The cost savings of virtualization are offset by the challenges to virtualization management, threatening environment stability and efficiency. Virtualization of the IT environment has real configuration challenges. 


Limited Visibility into VM Content

  • blog_virtualizationbeast4The VM encapsulates the guest environment turning it into black box
  • Dynamic allocation of VMs skews visibility into the environment architecture and configuration
  • Abundant amounts of environmental information hide real issues  


  • blog_virtualizationbeast5Ease of VM deployment causes uncontrolled spread of VMs
  • Drift/deviation from desired configuration create risks from application to virtual infrastructure
  • "Invisible" images  

Limiting Infrastructure Perspective

  • blog_virtualizationbeast6Separation of virtual infra from guest content drives management by VM rather than by the application
  • he focus of virtualization vendors on just the virtualization platform complicates business application management for an enterprise

How Granular Configuration Automation Helps

Granular Configuration Automation can help with virtualization by delivering visibility into the entire application stack - from the application themselves, through the application infrastructure within virtual machines and right into the virtual infrastructure. With Granular Configuration Automation you can control sprawl by making powerful end-to-end environment comparisons, and identify the deviations in virtual machines that can cause obsolete virtual machines to spin off.

Granular Configuration Automation can also help by applying an application level perspective that is a logical view of the environment - independent of physical and virtual topologies.

Delivers Granular Visibility into the VM Content

  • blog_virtualizationbeast7Top-down: application > application infrastructure > guest OS > virtual infrastructure 
  • Turn data overflow into actionable information  through impact knowledge  base  


Control Sprawl and Manage Drift

  • blog_virtualizationbeast8Powerful end-to-end environment  (and not server) comparison 
  • Compare inherently different environments 
  • Apply analytics to focus on what matters most  

Applies an Application-Level Perspective

  • blog_virtualizationbeast9Logical architecture view independent of physical or virtual topology
  • Combine virtual and physical environments into a single view to control heterogeneous environments
  • Visual modeling of custom applications (no programming)  
  • Out-of-the-box support for common application technologies (Websphere AS, Websphere PS, WebLogic, Jav, .NET, ASP.NET applications and more)  
About the Author
Martin Perlin