The skinny on virtualization is that it does much more than consolidate resources and simplify application delivery. It also produces a more dynamic infrastructure that can drive efficiencies by rapidly scaling usable resources to match changing data requirements.
That is, if you have the right infrastructure-management tools in place.
It turns out that one of virtualization's greatest benefits can also be its worst headache if you are not prepared. As storage analyst Jerome Wendt pointed out recently:
The advent of virtualization in organizations is putting their data centers and even their business processes in a huge state of flux. It used to be that as applications were purchased, the underlying resources that were needed to support them-servers, storage, backup, and to a certain degree even network - were procured at the same time and then largely dedicated to that application's exclusive use regardless if it fully utilized them or not.
Virtualization breaks that entire model. Now backup, network, server and storage resources are purchased and deployed independently of applications with applications forced to share these common underlying resources. While that sounds fine in theory, organizations are finding the practical application of that a little more difficult than vendors might have them believe.
That's why an entire industry has arisen around the goal of making the physical/virtual infrastructure easy to manage. Dell has been making steady progress in this area as it completes the transition from systems provider to full hardware/services partner. The company recently added a number of tools to its Virtual Integrated System (VIS) aimed at bridging virtual and cloud infrastructures and to manage hardware in heterogeneous environments. Users will also see a simplified GUI designed to provide a more cohesive approach to the system's three main components: the Advanced Infrastructure Manager, the Self-Service Creator and the VIS Director.
Infrastructure management can also extend to underlying power and support systems. APC has a new version of its InfraStruxure package that enables broader integration with traditional management systems, such as Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and provides increased visibility into electric and power supply systems. New features include the capability to automatically migrate VMs to the most desirable hosts from an energy-use perspective and new simulation tools designed to build or modify data center infrastructure.
There are times, of course, that we have to live in the real world, which is why a management system strictly for physical assets is still required. One of the latest is the NetZoomDC Enterprise system designed to provide guidance in the layout deployment and eventual day-to-day management of enterprise-class infrastructure. The package includes a full suite of modeling and visualization tools, asset, connectivity and capacity-management modules and customizable reporting solutions capable of drilling down to the resource level in single- or multi-location organizations. It also provides for application-, device- and property-level security.
A virtual environment is only as good as the hardware in which it resides. That hardware might not be intimately linked to data or applications anymore, but that doesn't make it any less crucial to overall system health and productivity. The more fluid the environment becomes under virtualization, the more system admins will come to rely on software to keep the data flowing.