Getting Virtualization Ready for Critical Apps

Arthur Cole

Conventional thinking has it that virtualization is necessary for data center consolidation and overall cost reduction in the enterprise. Just don't put mission-critical applications on virtual infrastructure because the technology is not yet stable enough to handle it.

But that view might be coming to an end sooner rather than later with a rising tide of virtual solutions aimed directly at the top-tier of enterprise applications. This trend comes just as awareness of the limits of virtualization are becoming clear to the IT industry. A recent survey by management firm Xangati indicates that fully 88 percent of the industry realizes that improved server performance alone is not enough to entrust mission-critical apps to virtual environments. Instead, improved management functions like increased visibility into virtual environments and multi-tier applications are needed.

Companies like Virtual Instruments are out to show that virtual environments can be made largely risk-free, or at least as dependable as physical systems, when it comes to critical apps. The company just came out with VirtualWisdom 2.0, a management stack designed to provide intelligent networking to enterprise SANS to ensure the most important applications and data have a reliable infrastructure at their disposal. The system features predictive analysis of configuration changes, SAN-to-LUN array analysis and a quick-deploy kit that accommodates up to 160 switch ports and 24 storage ports.

A number of platform-specific management stacks are also preparing the way for virtualized mission-critical apps. Azul Systems, for one, has developed Zing, an elastic runtime platform for Java environments that aims to improve scalability and performance even if applications are virtualized across multiple CPU cores and memory locations. The system features a virtual-friendly runtime controller designed to consolidate numerous small Java application instances into larger, more flexible ones, boosting overall performance even as it reduces hardware utilization.

There comes a point, though, where virtualization gives way to the cloud, which means any management stack for the very near future will have to accommodate applications stretched across both environments, as well as on traditional physical resources. Nimsoft, for one, is already heading in this direction with a new Unified Monitoring architecture designed to provide visibility across all types of infrastructure. The system features a customizable dashboard that draws data from more than 100 systems and devices, as well as service offerings from Google and Rackspace. The system uses standard portal and portlet technology to gather data from Nimsoft systems and third-party compatible devices.

Is this enough to prod enterprises to consolidate further by putting critical apps in virtual environments? Perhaps. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and it will take a fair amount of field experience to overcome the unease of messing with the crown jewels.

It's one thing to claim that your critical apps are safe. It's another thing to prove it.

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